After exploring the boom of padel during the post-Covid period, today we are going to dive into the heart of a new subject: the state of play of the current problem and the risks that there may be on the ascent of the padel in France, in particular a brake on development by an impossibility of practicing for certain practitioners, due to saturation of the ski slopes padel.

Demand greater than supply

The race for equipment had its effect in a few months and brought new issues to the surface. In fact, the growth curve for demand has become significantly higher than that for supply. We find ourselves today in a context of saturation of the structures of padel preventing some of the practitioners from playing padel and therefore to invest more in this sport.

Padel Magazine is responsible for regularly updating the figures on the evolution of the padel. We then note in October 2022 a number of practitioners which amounts to 500. In terms of licenses, we have 113 licenses padel issued in March 2023 but this does not include all practitioners with a multi-racket license. The number of competitors is also constantly evolving, increasing from approximately 25 to 000 between September 45 and September 000. This phenomenon is the result of a real popularization of the practice of padel in recent years with a sport which has become fashionable thanks to technical and physical accessibility which appeals to many.

On the other hand, we also have a developing offer but in a less exponential way. Padel Magazine today lists 1500 tracks of padel in France with a target of 2000 slopes by 2024, an increase of + 195% compared to 2018. We also note as a result an increase in the number of clubs with more than 500 clubs, 20% of which are clubs offering only practice of padel.

If we compare France's progress at the international level, we observe a delay in the number of runways built. For example, Italy has fewer riders but almost 4 times more trails, which makes you think… Not counting the model of spain where the padel is today the second most practiced sport in terms of licenses, with an extremely developed offering. Lately, interest in le padel has spread widely across the European continent as reported Padel Magazine. We note in particular a strong popularization of padel in Nordic countries like Finland or even Sweden where the padel begins to be developed considerably.

An unequal distribution of development padel in France

Despite development which is very present, there are also territories where the padel is still little known or is confused with the paddle, another sporting discipline. Indeed, close to the coasts it is common for the population to think of nautical discipline when the word " padel » and are not aware that another sport has the same name. I am talking here about a personal experience where during my university training in Master of Sports Management in Nantes, I faced this case many times.

Distribution of padel in France in 2023
Distribution of padel in France in 2023

We notice that the padel is very present and popular in southern regions et major French metropolises (Occitanie, Île-de-France, Bordeaux, Lyon, etc.), but much less in smaller regions, and in coastal and border areas. It is in these specific territories that the room for progress is greatest and that the supply needs to be increased for the development of padel on the long term. Private investors tend to set up around metropolises in order to reach as many audiences as possible, but in rural areas, we can assume that investment in the padel will be one of the major factors in the development of the offer.

Mapping of clubs padel in France

We can clearly see the presence of numerous clubs on the coast and a fairly sparse diagonal line from Strasbourg to Bordeaux. However, the percentage of tracks and practitioners in the coastal regions (apart from the south and New Aquitaine) are low because many coastal clubs are tennis clubs having established one or two tennis tracks. padel to satisfy vacationers during the summer. This then represents a minority of the offer compared to the large centers of padel private composed of more than ten slopes.

What fears and what risks?

The first short-term risk is the loss of practitioners who, due to lack of land and places in the discipline, will get bored and move on to another sport. The clubs try to accommodate as many practitioners as possible, but cannot cope with such waves of attendance. Among the 202 respondents from the Orléans metropolitan area, nearly 60 of them would be ready to change their sporting practice in the event that there were not enough places to be able to play padel whenever they want. We therefore see an important mission that the FFT and the actors it brings together must undertake, in increasing the supply and retaining practitioners.

Histogram representing the consequences of the imbalance between supply and demand

Then, in the medium and long term, we will be able to see a certain slowing down of the practice of padel, like other practices in the past such as beach tennis. We will then perhaps talk about a post-Covid fashion effect. If the imbalance between supply and demand is not reduced, it is therefore legitimate to question the viability of padel over time.

Finally, in this specific case, it will then be necessary to find those responsible and the FFT will be at the forefront of criticism. Their system of support for projects created by the clubs may be called into question and we will perhaps wonder if we could have done differently, even if criticism is already present with anti-padel that exist.

Even if the project of creating a federation of padel is imaginable, it seems that the connection with the FFT is also beneficial. This chapter on the relationship between supply and demand is central in the development of padel In France. Too big a gap between the number of fields and players will not allow the viability of the FFT's mission in the long term, which shows the major role of the latter in supporting projects to increase supply throughout the territory.

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.