After studying the issues surrounding the market padel, we are going to focus on a new subject today: the sporting career of football players. padel In France. Indeed, it is ultimately appropriate to ask ourselves where the 500 practitioners listed by the FFT and who they are. We will first look at participants from other sporting disciplines.

The strong presence of tennis players

When the arrival of padel in Spain, the tracks were integrated into the tennis clubs, and these are therefore tennis players of these clubs which were the first practitioners. In France, we can make the same hypothesis. THE padel arrived in the south of France and it was the players from the surrounding tennis clubs who were quickly attracted by this innovative practice similar to tennis.

Le padel was therefore inserted into the tennis family with the aim of offering a diversified and innovative offer in clubs. We can see that the first target audience of the padel is none other than tennis players, who by their technical and/or geographical proximity are most apt to discover the padel. Moreover, this is one of the reasons why the Ministry of Sports has delegated the management of padel at the FFT.

The questionnaire survey carried out among practitioners in the Orléans area confirms an overrepresentation of tennis players. Among the 202 individuals questioned, 58,9% declared tennis as sport they have already practiced, and 31,2% still play tennis today. These statistics show that almost 6 out of 10 players have already played tennis in their life and that almost a third of the practitioners questioned play tennis and padel in parallel even today.

The particularity of the offer padel of the territory is that two of the three clubs of padel are integrated into and adjacent to a tennis club. The structuring of these two offers of padel fact that any tennis player coming to practice in his club will inevitably have to see and pass by tennis courts padel. Therefore, through the passage of individuals, club communication and the word of mouth phenomenon, we can deduce that these tennis players have a high probability of coming one day to try the padel.

Through several examples specific to the survey area, we find a common idea, that of starting club activity by attracting the players most likely to appreciate the discipline given the technical proximity. The FFT encourages the installation of tracks padel in tennis clubs in order to retain licensees.

But if this observation corresponds to the launch policies of the padel in France, today is the padel is so over-represented by a population coming from tennis? Aren't clubs looking to diversify the profiles of practitioners by attracting athletes from other disciplines and with whom the padel maybe complementary ?

The arrival of new profiles

During the year 2021, we have seen that numerous investments and action plans have been launched to increase the number of land plots. padel in France, in order to respond to increasing demand. However, when we talk about the massification of a sporting practice, it also appears the arrival of new profiles of practitioners. The subject here is sporting origin of the latter. If tennis clubs offering padel participated in an over-representation of tennis players among tennis players padel, a phenomenon of accessibility du padel to all sports profiles appeared.

Jérôme Arnoux conducts a survey among listeners of Padel Magazine on the coupling of the padel with other sports. The results show that two thirds of respondents do not see any disadvantages from the moment the quality of the land padel is assured. In his analysis, the journalist concludes that: “ marry the padel with other sports allows the sporting origins of practitioners to be diversified, but also poses the problem of differences between sports (noise, population, codes of conduct, etc.)". A challenge then emerges for leaders to ensure good cohabitation.

In France, it is common to see an association of padel with other sports like badminton, squash, 5-a-side football and tennis mostly. If the association with other racket sports may seem justified, the coupling with 5-a-side football is a fairly daring bet. Indeed, the profiles of practitioners between a popular sport in the suburbs and another which is managed by a tennis federation, a sport with a rather noble and expensive reputation, are not very similar. On the other hand, these associations that we are talking about here are in favor of a democratization of padel, even if it is still too early to talk about large-scale democratization.

This phenomenon relates to the ways of knowing the padel practitioners, which we were able to analyze with the survey questionnaire. The ambition of these clubs is to bring together athletes who were originally quite different but who will then be led to cross paths and a 5-a-side football player may, for example, be tempted to try padel

Histogram representative of the discovery modes of gamers padel interviewed

We note on this subject that the word of mouth and transmission by relationships are the main modes of diffusion of padel. Attracting other audiences to the heart of the centers of padel will thus allow them to visually confront the terrain of padel and potentially make them want to try.

In addition, clubs 100% padel or only offering racket sports, will try to diversify their audience by making initiations or events with associations of different disciplines. For example, during an internship carried out at 4Padel from Orléans-Fleury, I was able to observe the temporary arrival of football clubs, a fencing association, basketball players, and agreements are regularly made with the clubs to offer reduced prices. 

We must also not neglect the non-sporting, people who rarely practice sport but who discover padel during business seminars or organized events. Corporate sport is a hot topic with numerous actions being implemented to offer moments of cohesion between employees around a sporting activity. For this, companies generally look for a sport that suits everyone and where any individual can do whatever their technical or physical qualities.

Assessment of the origins of practitioners

So if the padel was originally widely practiced by tennis players, the increase in the number of fields, clubs and therefore players has meant that le padel made himself known to other profiles of athletes or non-athletes. The survey questionnaire carried out asks participants about their past and current sporting practice.

If you tennis appears first in both cases, we find just behind the Football which has already been practiced by 50% of players padel. Then, we find in order the table tennis (16,3%), the basketball (13,9%), activities related to running (13,9%) or even the judo (12,4%). If we look at the activities practiced today, in parallel with padel, we find tennis (31,2%), activities related to running (17,8%), football (13,4%), activities related to fitness (9,9%) and the golf (8,4%).

We therefore find as many athletes from racket sports, team sports that of individual sports practiced freely. Note also the presence among the respondents of pure players of padel, that is to say athletes who started sport with padel (3,2%). We can therefore observe that this sport brings together different profiles of practitioners and even attracts less athletic individuals.

Paul Dornberger

In a series of articles, Paul Dornberger shares his research devoted to the development of padel. This confirmed player in France carried out extensive study work in April 2024 as part of his Master in Sports Management at the UFR STAPS in Nantes.