Game on for padel
Murray-backed Game4Padel raises funds for UK network
Sir Andy Murray and Peter Crouch playing padel
A company behind a fast-growing racket sport, backed by tennis stars Sir Andy Murray and Annabel Croft, has attracted a further £1.3m to develop a UK-wide network of courts.
The latest equity raise values Edinburgh-based Game4Padel at £10m, with the new capital being used to build up to 300 courts in the next five years.
Its two previous fundraising exercises – on inception in 2019 and then in March 2020 – were both heavily oversubscribed, raising a total of £1.25m.
Padel is a tennis/squash hybrid game that is spreading rapidly and boasts six million players in Spain alone. It is rapidly gaining popularity across the UK, continental Europe and the rest of the world. There are 100 courts in the UK, including Barnton in Edinburgh and in Stirling.
Enthusiasts include Rafael Nadal, David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
Fan: Pep Guardiola (pic: SNS Group)
Chairman of Game4Play is Jim McMahon, a founding partner of the investment business, West Coast Capital, and chairman of Motherwell FC.
The game 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.
The company is deploying capital so quickly to meet the growing demand for padel courts that it is already considering a fourth round of fundraising this summer.
In June, Game4Padel signed a 10-year lease with Europe’s largest retail destination, Westfield London, to install and operate three covered outdoor courts and two pop-up show courts.
Anyone for padel? Michael Gradon and Annabel Croft
Subject to planning, the three permanent courts are expected to open in January 2022. This will create by far the largest live audience for padel ever seen in the UK – and possibly in the world.
The firm is also in detailed discussions with some 50 other venues – including major retail destinations, business parks, leisure centres as well as sports venues.
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 provider and plans to be the dominant player in the fastest growing sport in the country.
Game4Padel’s Series-C investment round has further strengthened the firm’s investor base by introducing new backers to an already diverse and experienced group that includes company ambassadors and 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, former P&O FTSE 100 main board director and commercial/finance chair of the Wimbledon Championships.
Mr Gradon said: “Padel is at a tipping point in the UK, in terms of participation and popularity, and we have an ambition to be a major part of that growth story over the next few years, using our knowledge and expertise to develop the best facilities in the best locations for the best overall user experience.
“We have a high degree of confidence that we can deploy all the equity raised in premium UK sites within the next 12 months.
“Our first four venues are already operating ahead of our financial projections, despite the lockdown restrictions of the last year, and we recently opened a trial court at the prestigious 4,000-member St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club in Surrey, which we hope will prove the case for three permanent courts to be built there.”
Mr McMahon said: “This is an incredibly exciting period for our company and for the game of padel in the UK.
“It’s not often a business can say with certainty that it is in the right place at the right time, but given the vast experience in our team, the growth potential of the sport, our investor and capital base and the huge demand we are experiencing, I feel confident in saying that now.”