Chris’s Euro Padel League dream flies high
Rocks Lane Padel’s Chris Warren knows the pressure is on following the opening weekend of his new project – the European Padel League – in Marbella, where the home club served up hospitality ‘beyond belief’, setting the bar ‘ridiculously’ high for future hosts!
The first leg of the EPL was contested at the El Mirador Club on the Costa del Sol, the spiritual home of padel outside South America thanks to Prince Alphonso Von Hohenlohe-Langenburg introducing the sport to Europe in 1974 via his club in Marbella.
Fifty years on and the four teams – Chris’s London Rocks, Stockholm’s The Vikings of Jarfalla, the Riviera Icons from Grasse in the South of France and home hosts Marbella Sun, were on court battling it out in a ‘fun, friendly and fair’ tournament which saw The Vikings of Jarfalla secure an early lead in the league.
“It was brilliant and the feedback has been phenomenal,” said Chris, who came up with the idea for the EPL during the FIP Senior Championships in Alicante last year. “At the end of the weekend I thanked everybody and said that six or seven months ago this was a dream, thank you for making this dream a reality.”
I have never been to a tournament like it. The Spanish hospitality was beyond belief, just ridiculous.
Chris Warren, London Rocks EPL padel team
The EPL’s next venue is Vilamoura in the Algarve, where team Vilamoura Friends (they were unable to play the opener in Marbella) will host round two on March 22/23rd. In May the league heads to Jarfalla, Stockholm, and to Grasse in June. Rocks Lane in Chiswick, London, will host the finale on July 5-6th (the middle weekend of Wimbledon) – and Chris knows he has his work cut out matching the Spanish hospitality.
“I have never ever been to a tournament like it. The Spanish hospitality was beyond belief, just ridiculous. How are we going to match this?!” he said, suggesting that FIP could learn a thing or two from the team at El Mirador: “They organised everything from the moment we got off the plane – we even had an EPL logo’d coach. Compared to FIP it was out of this world, they would learn a lot from these guys. It was amazing, a smooth operation.”
The presentation evening included football-style wooden pendants for the players and padel’s own version of the Ballon d’Or for the best player, which went to Jarfalla Viking Jan. His team tops the scoreboard after the first round, followed closely by El Mirador, London Rocks and Riviera Icons.
The league, which Chris has dubbed the ‘Champions League of Padel’, is currently for ‘seniors’ men aged 40+ of a high club standard, with three pairs per team playing in age categories of 100 yrs+, 105yrs+ and 110 yrs+ (each pairing’s combined ages must meet these figures). There are plans to open inclusion to ladies, mixed, juniors and adaptive padel players in due course, with the overriding aim being to offer club players the opportunity to participate in European padel events.
To start numbers have been pegged at five teams but Chris has a waiting list of clubs from around Europe wanting to enter and is looking at expanding the league to 16 teams when the second season starts in September. As numbers grow, he plans to create groups of four teams all playing for a place in the season grand finale.
“The key is to identify clubs who are ambitious and have experience in organising team events,” said Chris. “Each club becomes an integral part of the EPL with shares and voting rights to determine the direction of the league. Each club must commit to hosting a home event for a minimum of four teams and underwrite each home event to provide the playing opportunities and hospitality for all players.
“This first one is a big learning curve and then we’ll see how we can improve things and move it forward,” he told The Bandeja. “We wanted to create an international league for clubs and their members. Most international padel tournaments and events do not provide opportunities for loyal club members to actually play. Padel is all about inclusivity, fun and networking.”
To ensure no dead rubbers and keep games alive, match winners get three points and losers one point for each set won. Chris has also combined deuce and golden point to come up with ‘silver point’ – play one deuce and the next is golden point.
Sponsors, including Babolat, Easipadel and Padel Fit Pro, are supporting the league and there are plans to offer sponsors the chance to play social padel during each tournament leg. 🎾