When International Club Cup padel (CICP), we meet Christophe Petit, who introduces us to the club of padel that he staged in Greece: La Sfaira Padel.
A project padel in Greece
Christophe Petit, that doesn’t sound very Greek! And yet... A long family story began in 1961 when my mother, Greek, came to settle in France. Exactly fifty years later, in 2011, his son came to settle in Greece. The most difficult year for a country which lost 25% of its GDP and more than 600 inhabitants at that time. For my part, I was an expatriate to begin with, then independent in the field of finance, working a little in Greece, but more than 000% of my time abroad.
In 2007 and 2008, I took my first steps on a track padel, in Aix-en-Provence. I find that quite nice. The tennis player who is losing physical condition tells himself that it is not a bad idea to move on to another sport, still with a racket of course, but with less demands and less impact on the knees, and which is at both more fun and easier to adopt.
But upon arriving in Greece, I noticed that the padel does not exist there. However, the weather is nice. The locals love beach rackets and play a lot of beach volleyball. I tell myself there is something to do. I teamed up with a friend, and we started our project in 2013, even receiving a European grant of nearly €40. Greece is totally bankrupt. There is no shortage of space. But Greece is also a bureaucratic and disorganized country. Therefore, it will take us more than three years to finally open the doors of our first club. padel, in October 2016. In the meantime, a few other “padelists” also tried their luck. And it works ! Greek style of course, but it’s nice!
French with a Greek mother, I know the local culture. I am a former tennis player who knows the padel, I am a financial director in my everyday life, so I am one of the few who try to project myself with a business plan and a model for the years to come. This is the key so that what happens daily in Greece for more than 80% of small businesses does not happen to me: creation of a company at a given moment and professional death within ten months after its start-up, because no projection or anticipation, no cash management.
An urban club
The club was built on the “Urban” model Padel”. In the heart of the city, we are a 5-minute walk from the French Lycée d'Athenes where nearly 2 children attend school. In the heart of the suburb of Agia Paraskevi (nearly 000 inhabitants), we are surrounded by numerous suburban towns to the north of Athens, which mean that within 50.000 to 3 km in circumference, we have more than 4 inhabitants “available”. Really one padel urban. It is a small structure of 3 plots of 1500 m² which is also on the passage of the real “authentic” Marathon which connects the town of Marathon to the center of Athens.
The start in 2016 was rather good despite the lack of knowledge by the general public of the sport of padel.
Strong growth occurred in particular from 2020 and Covid. In search of non-contact outdoor sports during this period, many Greeks discovered the padel. The misfortune of some has made the happiness of others in some way...
From there, other clubs were created.
Slightly slow development in Greece
On the scale of Greece, sport is evolving strongly, but on the scale of what similar countries or of the same size have been able to do in the same period of time, Greece remains, as often, far behind: a non-existent federation and clubs incapable of coordinating. This will undoubtedly happen one day, but today there is a lack of national cohesion and the understanding that competition is rather positive, because it allows the sport to be democratized and reach more people. In a city of more than four million inhabitants like Athens, there is room for everyone.
A social side
The specificity of the club is to target a large population (men and women of all ages) who want to relax with friends, who need to do sport while having fun (for those who are resistant to running alone or the gym), then chat with friends over a beer or soda afterwards. Our rather mid-range model therefore remains a simple local model where we simply come to play and see each other. We learn the basics and jump straight into the game at all levels. A model similar to the 5×5 football model.
We organize tournaments or simple events in mode customer intimacy, like the Americans, tournaments of 6 or 8 teams maximum so that beginners or intermediate players can meet and organize themselves to come and play with the frequency that suits them. The players are generally beginners or intermediate level who are not necessarily looking to become crack players.
Last minute reservations
The important difference with countries like France is the absence of recurrence in most reservations. Greeks like to book at the last minute. This is one of the reasons why we opted for a game-oriented model rather than lessons. The club is available to people who come at their convenience.
The other, essentially Mediterranean, difference is that in Greece appearances remain important, so the ability to sell high-end racquets is strangely important, even for some beginners.
At La Sfaira Padel, we opted for a snowshoe rental model so that people can test several models, but above all to respect the budgets of most people. Greece remains a poor country. In order to reach as many people as possible, you have to offer affordable prices, which most clubs do not do.
The cheapest club in the region
For our part, 90 minutes of play costs €10 per person in the evening and a little less in the afternoon as well as €2 to €4 for a racket depending on its quality (standard or premium). For those who wish, they can also purchase hour packs in advance, and save up to 35% on the usual prices, and therefore pay for the hour of play at the price of €4,50 per person. With VAT at 24%, these are unbeatable prices.
We are by far the cheapest club in the region, mainly out of respect for everyone's economic situation, in order to allow as many people as possible to discover this beautiful sport, young people, students, etc.and who couldn't spend more if they want to play and have fun at least once a week.
A club for sale
Today, I returned to live in France. Remote management of a club (and especially its employees) is a bit complex. The club must open a new chapter in order to cover more niches, to further develop its visibility on current advertising tools (social networks, etc.), develop its monitoring of numerous clients (a registered clientele of more than 1700 players who 'you have to keep alive) with the aim of increasing loyalty and profitability. The business model is extremely simple. The work carried out over the years allows us to be immediately operational.
Now heading towards other horizons, I wish to find one or more buyers who will be able to bring La Sfaira Padel at a higher level. I am of course open to any discussion so that this club can take on new challenges.
The purchase price of such a club is not very high in a country like Greece. A few small investments in aesthetic improvement and perhaps roofing could quickly bring more frequentation.
Xan is a fan of padel. But also rugby! And his posts are just as punchy. Physical trainer of several padel, he unearths atypical posts or deals with topical subjects. It also gives you some tips to develop your physique for the padel. Clearly, he imposes his offensive style as on the field of padel !