Premier Padel CEO stakes claim for Wimbledon major
Could the hallowed turf of Wimbledon and the roar of Centre Court be padel’s destiny in the UK? RJ Mitchell finds out in this exclusive interview with Eno Polo, the new CEO of global padel tour Premier Padel.
Eno Polo may only have taken up his post as CEO of Premier Padel in November but already he’s revealed an ambition to make Wimbledon the venue for what would be a fifth padel major.
Speaking exclusively with The Bandeja, in what is his first major interview with a UK media outlet, the new CEO of Premier Padel said they ‘would love’ to hold a tournament in the UK, adding: “I’m sure if Wimbledon gave me Centre Court for padel we would leap at that for 2025, and maybe one day they will, just like the French Open did. We would love that opportunity and it would be an excellent reason to be looking at a major in the UK.”
However, he admitted a top-flight tournament on UK soil was perhaps ‘a bit of a stretch’ at the moment – but not an impossibility: “We already have our four majors tied in, that said we are looking at potentially having five majors so we are open to that,” Eno told The Bandeja.
Eno’s appointment followed last summer’s historic announcement that Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) and the International Padel Federation (FIP) had agreed a deal with Spanish brewer Damm for QSI to buy its World Padel Tour (WPT), delivering a single global professional padel tour – Premier Padel – under the governance of FIP, with a huge schedule of 25 events planned for 2024, starting with the Riyadh P1 at the end of February.
The announcement brought to an end many months of rancour between the two organisations, paving the way for the sport at professional level to settle down and begin building its future with one global tour and a single ranking system.
as a first year it is always super exciting, there is the unexpected and the unknown, the nervousness and that’s what it’s like for any competitor going into a competition and for me that is a super prospect.
- Eno Polo, Premier Padel
Born in Kenya of French and Italian parents Eno, as you’d expect with such a famous surname, is well travelled, attending university in Texas while playing the ATP circuit for four years and also representing Kenya in the Davis Cup, enjoying a career high ranking of World No 574.
It is therefore perhaps no surprise that Eno would like to follow the French Open’s yearly transformation of Roland-Garros into a temporary ‘major’ padel venue when it comes to the hallowed lawns of SW19 – and Centre Court in particular. But he’s realistic: “Of course before that can happen, and we go off on our dreams, looking at the UK in terms of having a P1 or P2 would be really important.
“Also padel is growing in many areas of the UK and not just London and there are many padel clubs opening up. I worked for a big company (LeDap Group) who opened in (We Are Padel) Derby so we could look at places like that where it is booming and there is a real padel community. That would allow us to start with a P2 and then a major in combination (in the UK) and why not even P2s in Scotland and Ireland?”
It is a hugely exciting time to take over the reins of the Premier Padel organisation but when it comes to Eno’s suitability to meet the challenges ahead the new ‘boss’ is almost over qualified, with a business resume even more impressive than his sporting CV, including extensive experience in padel and tennis spanning senior roles in Nike across Europe and North America; President of Havaianas EMEA and North America; President of Global Brands Group Europe and a senior consultant to FIFA.
He joins Premier Padel most recently from the LeDap Group where he was CEO of an international group of padel companies operating more than 120 clubs (including We Are Padel Derby and Bristol) with more than 700 padel courts worldwide. Since 2021 the 56-year-old has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the ATP Tour.
Looking ahead to the new padel landscape set to blossom in 2024 Eno smiles with excitement at the prospect of a unified padel tour unfolding across the globe.
He said: “The fact that 2024 is the first year that Premier Padel will be running the tour following the merger with World Padel Tour is really exciting to me. We now have the 24 tournaments plus the finals and as a first year it is always super exciting, there is the unexpected and the unknown, the nervousness and that’s what it’s like for any competitor going into a competition and for me that is a super prospect.
“In 2023 we had eight tournaments but we only ran six with the one in Egypt cancelled because of the war in Gaza and the other one in Acapulco cancelled because of the hurricane hitting there a couple of weeks before.
“Also the fact the tour will be a lot more global will make it interesting to see the reaction we will get in new countries who will host a professional tournament, and players, for the first time.
“So these will be the two things in terms of the tour and then from Premier Padel’s side I think it is just the opportunity to create a team from scratch. Although the players have been playing pro padel for many years for Premier Padel it feels like it is a new entrepreneurial project as we step in and take over.”
Yet as Eno admits readily, there are some major changes brought on by this ground-breaking syncing of padel’s previously warring governing bodies: “First the players will have to travel a lot more. So it is good and bad as they will have a lot more visibility globally and it will bring a lot more fans to the game – and even to their (the players’) own social media profiles and deals. But there will be longer flights, higher expenses and more pressure to win in the face of these higher costs,” he said.
The Premier Padel CEO continued: “Also with WPT it was 18 tournaments in Spain and now we are down to just three there plus the World Finals so four altogether. That is a big change especially as most of the players are still Spanish, so we are pushing them to go to other countries and really promote the game by doing so.”
Yet there was one question Eno smoothly side-stepped – how much did QSI pay to by-out WPT? “I don’t even know! I joined the company and I never asked that question. As a CEO coming in I did not feel that was a question I needed to ask,” smiled padel’s new man-in-charge. 🎾
From The Bandeja magazine: