The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has described 2021 as a “significant milestone year” in the history of padel in Britain, in terms of new courts being built around the country. Considered one of the world’s fastest growing sports, padel has been played in pockets up and down the country for decades, but it is only really in recent years it has started to make its mark on the British sporting landscape.
In 2019, when there were just over 50 padel courts in Britain, the LTA announced it would integrate British Padel into the organisation’s day-to-day operations, and in November 2020 it became the national governing body for padel after Sport England, Sport Scotland and Sport Wales officially recognised the sport as a discipline of tennis.
The strategic move to bring padel under its operations aligned to the LTA’s vision to open up tennis and find new ways to grow participation, and integrating it into the LTA provided an immediate platform to facilitate the organic growth of the sport.
Since then, the number of courts and players in Britain has grown at a pace. There are now around 150 padel courts in Britain, spread across 66 venues including tennis clubs, as well as leisure partners and padel-only operators. The latest participation data shows there are now 89,000 active players, with monthly participation around 15,000.
LTA Head of Padel, Tom Murray, said: “Growing a minority sport essentially from scratch in a country that loves its mainstream sports is a challenging task.
“To drive that, we put in place a padel development plan to outline what needed to be done to help scale up the sport.
“This past year has all been about us building the game, with a primary focus on developing the overall infrastructure of the sport – the number of padel courts, a workforce, and a structured player pathway.
“The demand for courts, in 2021 and moving into 2022, is huge, which is the main driver of growing participation in padel.
“Our target for 2022 is to add another 100 courts. As highlighted within the Padel Development Plan this will mainly be achieved through organic growth e.g. within tennis venues helping to grow padel sustainably, however new sectors including padel only operators will also play a key role in this next phase.”