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Richmond sports chief brands Padel development plans a ‘considerable challenge’

Plans for the introduction of padel in Richmond and Twickenham have stalled with residents expressing major concerns over light and noise pollution.

Despite being one of the most active and wealthy boroughs in London, out of the 300+ courts in Britain, Richmond have none.

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Richmond’s Lead Member for Sports, Councillor Alan Juriansz noted the considerable growth of padel in the UK explaining that it would be fantastic to see the sport available in the borough.

“I am very keen for the widest possible range of sports to be on offer in the borough.

“We are already very fortunate to already have so many opportunities for sport in Richmond but adding padel to our facilities would be great.”

Mr Juriansz continued by outlining the difficulties confronting local government, highlighting the borough’s committed environmental focus, with 50% of Richmond made up of green spaces.

“Finding a site where there will not be too many objections from neighbours to sports lighting and noise but at the same time is not so secluded that it is a haven for wildlife which we would not want to jeopardise, is a considerable challenge.

“However, even though it’s a challenge there must be appropriate sites in the borough.

“We have to identify them and work out how to minimise any detrimental effects on neighbours and biodiversity.”

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Great Britain’s Aimee Gibson takes part in an LTA Padel competition

At Twickenham Tennis Club, the problems are clearly visible.

Situated on a residential street, the club is already compromising on space with expansion considered impossible.

Despite the club having had internal conversations and ambitions of installing padel courts on the site, the head of coaching Andrea Costello said that it simply would not be able to work.

She explained how the club’s priority is to maintain their good relationship with neighbours so are therefore currently unable to install floodlights because of the light spillage.

With the requirement of a unique court alongside pricey membership costs, the sport is still somewhat cordoned off to a chunk of prospective players.

Richmond residents currently need to go to neighbouring boroughs like Chiswick and Wandsworth to access padel facilities.

For a non-member at the Rocks Lane Padel Tennis club in Chiswick, an outdoor court comes at a price of £44 per hour, with an indoor court costing £55 per hour.

A ‘Premier Membership’ however, costing £300 annually, offers a price reduction of £33 for an outdoor court and £44 per hour for an indoor court.

With two padel courts taking up the same amount of space as one tennis court, costing £13 per hour at the Rocks Lane Club, the sport offers a fresh, lucrative opportunity.

In 2019 the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) announced it would integrate British Padel into its day-to-day operations, with the LTA becoming padel’s national governing body after Sport England, Scotland, and Wales officially recognised it as a discipline of tennis.

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Andy Murray and Peter Crouch play Padel at the LTA’s National Tennis Centre

Tom Murray, the LTA’s Head of Padel said at the time: “Growing a minority sport essentially from scratch in a country that loves its mainstream sports is a challenging task.

“Building padel courts alongside existing tennis courts, creating new, modern facilities, helps in bringing new people into tennis, generating more interest and involvement in the sport.

“This is an approach we have put in place at the National Tennis Centre, allowing us to demonstrate how incorporating padel courts alongside tennis facilities can successfully work.”

Canary Wharf’s premium new venue Padium has been hailed as a standard bearer for padel facilities in the UK and a game-changer for the sport’s profile.

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Canary Wharf’s glistening new Padel venue

Sky Sports Golf Presenter Sarah Stirk attended the third edition of Padium’s ‘ProAm’ event last November – a tournament where professional players partner ‘amateur’ celebrity athletes.

“I’m totally addicted. It’s the best game, it’s social, it’s fun and it’s just absolutely absorbing. I love it,” she said.

With England’s ODI captain Jos Buttler and Chelsea legend John Terry in attendance too, the sport has been highly successful in attracting famous faces.

Christian Murphy, GB’s No 1 added: “The best thing is that we can get more people involved in Padel. We can promote the sport and grow it in the UK.

“It’s just so fun. You jump on court, and you start to enjoy it straight away.”

GB No. 2 Aimee Gibson who was first introduced to padel while living in Dubai said, “When I got back [to the UK] I had a few lessons here and I just got totally addicted to it and couldn’t stop playing.

“I’m so excited for the sport to keep growing.”

Author

  • Sam France

    Sam France is an avid tennis watcher and player, frequently found passionately raving about the WTA. A journalist with a passion for all things sport, culture, and politics, Sam is a committed Radio 4 listener. A big WSL fan, Sam is still searching for a Guro Reiten autograph. @SamFrance28