GAME4PADEL’s chairman, Jim McMahon has issued a heartfelt seasonal thanks to our partner venues and team as he reflected on a year of unparalleled growth for our company.
Jim has brought a lifetime of business experience and acumen to bear for us since becoming Game4Padel’s chairman when the company was established in 2018.
Yet 2022 has been more than just a year of exponential growth for Game4Padel. Our ground-breaking agreement with PadelMBA has already started to provide rich dividends after CPC (Certified Padel Coach) courses were successfully delivered to great acclaim at our Edinburgh and Huddersfield partner venues. And the development of our Edinburgh Park facility is a market leading first in a business park.
There was also the seminal success of our pop-up padel showcase at Westfield, Europe’s biggest retail outlet, which thanks to the involvement of our ambassadors Sir Andy and Jamie Murray, Annabel Croft, Andrew Castle, and Tia Norton, provided unsurpassed profile and media coverage over an unforgettable weekend for both Game4Padel and the sport of padel in general.
All of which led Jim to reflect: “I’d like to add my thanks to everyone involved in the team, and to all our partner venues. I’ve been in business a long time and I have only twice before said that I felt this was ‘right time and right place’. Both those two occasions in the past proved to be very successful.
“With Game4Padel I think we are absolutely good in all areas from concept to management team to timing – and the sport of padel in the UK is starting to explode.
“I really think that over the next 12 months padel will gather even more momentum and so for Game4Padel it is absolutely the right time and the right place.
“In every business which goes from start up to scale up, and we are now at scale up, there is a point at which you have to add to the enthusiasm and drive of the founders by expanding the team and, in so doing, adding professionalism.
“Lots of scale ups fail at this stage as the people who start it think they know best but I have always been keen to get people who are better than me on board as it makes life easier.
“In the last year we have accepted the need to add the expertise of others. We now have the team to get us through to the next phase and do things correctly.
“One of our investors, Derek recently brought the head of Barclays out to Edinburgh Park to try padel. Afterwards Derek said to me: ‘I didn’t realise all the folk you have on board and that you are a proper business.’ So that was a strange comment but it was also a vindication!”
Delving in more depth into the year that was Jim was keen to provide some insight into the process and progress of our development programme which has rolled out so successfully across the UK and he said: “When we started out we thought we could do a quicker, more aggressive roll out of venues and two things prevented that.
“The first was Covid and the sheer blockages that caused. The other is that it has been incredibly difficult to get through planning.
“I thought with us developing at sports venues or new builds that would not be a problem but because planning authorities hadn’t seen padel before, particularly outdoor covered courts, it has been an issue.
“So I would like to be further on but given the circumstances that is where we are at. There is a great quote from one of my favourite authors, PG Wodehouse which is: ‘I would not say he was disgruntled but he was far from being gruntled,’ and I am not disgruntled!
“Given all the headwinds I don’t think we could have done more. The key for next year – now we have the team, the staff, the back-up – is to open a venue a month.
“Rolling out a venue a month will be challenging – to use another quote, it is not a case of: ‘Build it and they will come,’ other than perhaps in central London where you can stick a court up and it will be flooded no matter what you do.
“Outside London it is a huge job to get people interested and the word is now spreading but then getting them along and getting them to forget the experiences they had trying for example tennis and that it wasn’t for them and persuading them padel is for them.
“Starting a venue is not just agreeing a deal, selecting a venue, putting aside the capex and spend, getting the planning and building warrants, getting the gear, it’s about all the other softer stuff that goes alongside it.
“Stuff like making the market aware that you are coming and getting people on the court to try it because once people try padle then without exception, almost, they love it and want to play it again.
“With everything we have learned from the last four years we are ready to do quicker roll outs – once we get through planning – and establishing a critical path that works.
“We don’t have a shortage of pipeline with exciting venues but our challenge during the next 12 months will be to get these venues up and running.
“I’d also have to say that using pop-up padel courts has been incredibly successful in terms of building a player base while we await planning consent for permanent courts.”
Turning his attention to some of our flagship venues Jim said: “Brighton, for example, has been great in terms of utilisation. We knew that there was an existing cadre of people keen to play at Withdean (Brighton). And if you have enthusiasts, if you have disciples and converts and they spread the message, that is something we have learned is vital – to have these types of players in our locations.
“At Broxbourne we opened with a pop-up court and signed up 100 members in the first month.
“Edinburgh Park went straight to permanent courts, and because of what we have learned from our other venues, has been our best opening so far but it has also been a huge test for us as we are in a business park.
“Can we get corporate members? I think we can. Can we get schools and universities using it during the day? I think we can and I think we can get people using the café restaurant next door and enjoying it and having fun there.
“But there is a huge amount to do there. I wouldn’t like to single out one favourite venue, it is a bit like picking your favourite grandchild, so I just won’t do it.”
Jim also had no doubt about referring to our exclusive coaching delivery agreement with PadelMBA as a key differentiator in our approach to developing both our relationship with our partner venues and fostering the growth of the game in general.
He said: “There are various people who will tell you that you don’t need coaching as the game is easy to take up and at one level that is true.
“Yes, you can play padel without coaching but having a lesson from an enthusiastic coach improves the enjoyment and your game hugely. It’s not something you need day one as most people can enjoy rallies and hit the ball over the net but as they get a wee bit better it makes a difference.
“Our relationship with PadelMBA is fantastic and we will be getting the guys across in the UK in 2023 to train up coaches and teach players at various venues and it really is a key differentiator. I’m pleased to say, whether foolish or not at my age, that I did the course myself!”
Yet there was one event which helped padel transcend from being a new and relatively unknown sport to one which earned meaningful ‘game’ time in the national consciousness and that came with our pop-up padel showcase at Westfield.
Over to you Jim: “Westfield gave us incredible pride in the team. Gary, Vincent, and James put the 3-day Westfield festival together in basically three weeks and it was a huge testament to all of their skills and dedication in terms of what they achieved.
“It also brought us much closer to our ambassadors who all stayed for much longer than we expected and really enjoyed it.
“Westfield said it was the best event they’d ever had in terms of activation – that they were blown away by it and want it back.
“It also really got padel out into the public arena with a quarter million people wandering past and wondering what it was, so in terms of spreading the word of the game it was fantastic.
“In terms of our overall credibility the value was also huge. We have had many new enquiries since Westfield. It was hugely important to underscore our position as the No.1 player in the market and to get the message across that the Game4Padel team know what they are doing.”