Updated: Dec 22, 2020
The Thistle Club Story
Thistle Tennis Club in Edinburgh was for many years one of the leading clubs in the East of Scotland, producing players for County teams and beyond. The club is very much part of the local community and with 6 courts, had over 350 members. Gradually, however, the club found itself in a spiral of decline familiar to many clubs; facilities deteriorating, membership declining, income reducing, in what would ultimately have been a terminal spiral of decline.
Membership declined as low as 60 adults. The committee wanted to reinvigorate the club and were approached by a club member, Peter Gordon, with a proposition to introduce Padel. Peter explained the potential transformational impact: –
Fastest growing and most addictive racket sport in the world!
Easier game for kids and seniors, technically & physically
Doubles-only in a small court, so huge social fun for adults, with much banter!
Longer/faster rallies than tennis with fascinating tactical battles
The club enthusiastically embraced Padel as part of its recovery plan. It couldn’t have funded the courts by itself, nor had the construction skillsets, so Peter, an expert in tennis court construction, agreed to design/build and (supported by another member) fund the courts in return for most of the court fee revenue – a forerunner of the successful Game4Padel model explained below.
It was a no-brainer for the club – it got a fantastic new facility at no cost, with the potential to attract new members and reverse the decline. The Padel courts opened in 2017 and the club secured grant-funding to upgrade the tennis courts. Padel acted as a catalyst for the club and membership has rebounded to over 350.
Padel has continued to flourish at Thistle, with expert coaching from Angel Castano and Jorge Martinez (the LTA Padel Tour No. 1 pair). Peter co-founded Game4Padel (G4P) and G4P agreed to take over Padel at Thistle and install steel-framed canopies on the courts giving all year-round play. The newly covered courts opened in December 2019 and proved an instant hit, with play increasing three-fold and attracting a whole new audience to Padel with box-leagues, team leagues, bookings from local schools and businesses. It has become a model for the integration of Padel into tennis clubs, complementing tennis and strengthening the club.
How to make Padel work at your club
Introducing Padel successfully, however, is not straightforward. Costly and fundamental mistakes are easily made. Here are suggestions to on how to do so to maximise results:
Lesson 1 – Make courts prominent
For Padel to take off successfully, the courts should be in as prominent position as possible, where people will naturally stop and watch. Once people have tried Padel they are hooked and the best way to get people willing to try it is for them to see it being played!
Lesson 2 – Use experienced contractors and premium equipment
Padel courts are like tennis rackets – buy a cheap one that won’t play well or last long, or a top quality one that will. There are four main components to a court – structural posts, glass, the playing surface and floodlights, but it’s a false economy to opt for the cheapest – rusting posts, broken glass or insufficient drainage will occur and can be disastrous. Including ground works, it might be theoretically possible to get courts installed for £30,000 – £40,000, however it’s the cost of ground works that can escalate project costs even further. Expect to pay over £40,000 per court (+VAT) for premium courts, projects that involve more complex civil engineering works and for installers who know what they are doing in the UK environment.
Groundworks are always site-specific and it’s vital to mitigate cost overrun or other unpleasant surprises by addressing the levelling, tree roots, leaf fall, utilities, ground conditions, drainage, and construction access. There are also a myriad of design/aesthetic options including court specification, floodlight design, panoramic frameless glass, online booking/payment/automated access systems, racket rental arrangements, colour options and canopies for indoor play.
Lesson 3 – Maximise promotion/marketing/playing programmes
Padel needs to be marketed to the widest possible number of potential players;, such as the local community, schools, universities, players from other sports (eg footballers and rugby players love Padel – Liverpool FC & Man City FC have their own courts – Jurgen Klopp plays daily and Zlatan Ibrahimovic has built his own club). Coaches, ideally your current ones, need to be enthused and trained, creating fun/imaginative playing programmes with social events, leagues and tournaments to back this up.
Lesson 4 – Ensure the right funding structure
Clubs can fund Padel courts with their own cash, taking the cost risks of contracting with a Padel court builder, then relying on club resources to promote, market and run Padel or they can partner with a specialist funding/operational partner, such as Game4Padel www.game4Padel.com, which offers a full service turnkey solution, meaning full funding and all the experience/skills to maximise the impact of this amazing sport.
The Game4Padel OFFER
Game4Padel was founded in early 2019 by a very experienced management team. Chairman, Jim McMahon , a former PWC partner and chair of Motherwell FC, CEO Michael Gradon, ex-FTSE 100 Director and former Chairman of Commercial, Media & Finance for the All England Club / Wimbledon Championships, Commercial Director, Peter Gordon (founder of Thistle Padel), with huge experience building tennis & leisure facilities and Operations Director, Vincent Hivert, a tennis& Padel coach with extensive experience of working with tennis clubs developing programmes. G4P has raised in excess of £1m of capital. Andy Murray is one of the original investors and tennis celebrities Andrew Castle and Annabel Croft and rugby legend Jonathan Davies are all ambassadors.
G4P’s unique offer includes:
Capital and most operating costs paid for by G4P
High-spec aluminium courts from AFP Adidas Padel – arguably the world’s best
Electronic court access system, online booking/payment systems and floodlight controls, enabling play with no staffing required
G4P provides carpet replacement, annual maintenance, software license fees for the booking system and guarantees the courts, indefinitely
Membership of G4P’s national network, enabling your members to access other G4P venues around the country
An indefinite partnership with G4P’s and your club’s interests aligned, to ensure courts remain active, in an ideal condition & Padel benefits the club long-term
High-profile launch festival, with a G4P ambassador and full marketing support
Coach training/support and advice on programmes, courses, events, leagues, matches etc.