Padel Tennis: Access All Areas
Originally published on: 28/03/13 00:00
Now, thanks to the determination of a small group of padelistas – and considerable investment by David Lloyd Leisure – English padel is taking off.
Introduced to the sport by world No.82 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez after being soundly beaten by the Spaniard on a tennis court, Padel England chief executive Erik de Wit has big ambitions. Following the birth of Padel England Association, the sport enjoyed a huge surge in popularity last year.
From just 300 registered players in 2010, padel has expanded tenfold in the space of two years. In April 2012 the first dedicated padel club opened in London with wheelchair access – the first padel courts to be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.
“During my career and especially during my junior years I have seen some horrific injuries with permanent damage,” said De Wit. “When introduced to padel, it became clear to me that to make this game a success, especially in the UK, the sport will have to consider the disability and disadvantage side of the sport – making it both physically and financially accessible for all to play.
“The wheelchair access is a unique feature designed by Padel England to make this sport accessible and enjoyable for all. With a very simple hinge system, the doorframe opens wider, allowing sports wheelchairs to enter.”
Following the success of padel at its three courts in Chigwell, Essex, David Lloyd Leisure – the first nationwide operator to bring padel to the UK with the capacity to roll out to its estate – opened three new courts at its Bushey club in Hertfordshire in December. The group also has comprehensive padel facilities at its Barcelona club and a court at its exclusive Chelsea Harbour Club.
So why has padel suddenly taken off? Besides the obvious attraction that it is easy to play for all ages and standards, De Wit puts it down to two factors, including the global financial crisis, which has seen many Brits forced to sell their Spanish properties and return to the UK.
Padel took another step forward in May last year when Padel England took over UK Padel Federation, creating one voice for the sport. But until padel is recognised by Sport England, there will be no government funding to help develop the sport – but the wheels are firmly in motion. With the aim to build up to 50 more courts this year, what is De Wit’s vision for the future of the sport?
“With the right PR, partners and facilities in the near future, padel will develop itself as the most played rackets sport,” he said.
To read the full feature, get your hands on the April 2013 issue of tennishead magazine.