Sir Andy backed racket sport moves into retail venue
Sir Andy Murray and ex-footballer Peter Crouch take part in a game of padel
A company behind a fast-growing racket sport, backed by tennis star Sir Andy Murray and a Scottish businessman, has secured a base in the largest retail venue in Europe.
Westfield in London has agreed a 10-year lease deal with Game4Padel which is building a UK-wide network of playing facilities for padel.
The company’s chairman is Jim McMahon, a founding partner of Sir Tom Hunter’s investment business, West Coast Capital. Mr McMahon is also chairman of Motherwell FC.
The tennis/squash hybrid game already boasts six million players in Spain and is rapidly gaining popularity across the UK, continental Europe and the rest of the world. There are a number of courts in Scotland, including Edinburgh and Stirling.
Padel is played with four players in a glass-enclosed court about one-third of the size of a tennis court. The rules are broadly similar to tennis – although players serve underarm, making it easier to play – and the walls are used as part of the game. It can be played in groups of mixed ages and abilities, as tactics and subtlety are as important as power.
In addition to former tennis world number one siblings Sir Andy Murray and Jamie Murray, other celebrity padel devotees include Rafael Nadal, David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
Jim McMahon: chairman
There are currently 100 courts around Britain, but the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which is the governing body for padel in the UK, has forecast 400% growth in the number of courts by 2023.
Game4Padel already operates more padel venues than any other UK provider and plans to be the dominant player in the fastest growing sport in the country.
The agreement with Westfield London is Game4Padel’s first with a retail and leisure operator.
The company is in advanced discussions with more than 30 other sites – two of which are major retail centres in other large British cities – which it anticipates will add more than 50 additional courts to its existing five venues.
Game4Padel boasts a diverse group of experienced UK investors, alongside company ambassadors and sports broadcasters Annabel Croft and Andrew Castle, the former British no.1 tennis players, and Jonathan Davies, the Welsh rugby legend.
The company’s chief executive is Michael Gradon, a former longstanding commercial and finance chair of the Wimbledon Championships.
He said: “We see huge potential for padel facilities in premium UK leisure and retail developments so to have signed this deal with Europe’s biggest and best shopping destination is a real boost.
“The explosive growth of padel around the world gives us great confidence in its prospects here in the UK.”
It is thought the development of activities such as padel will be an important part of the future mix of retail and leisure facilities as shopping habits change.=
Entertainment and leisure is an important part of Westfield London. It was the first centre in the UK to create a major events space, The Atrium, which has hosted world movie premiers and international music performances.
Braehead in Renfrewshire also boasts indoor sports and leisure facilities.