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The Qatari owner of French football club Paris Saint-Germain is to merge its competition circuit in the fast-growing sport of padel with a rival, creating a global professional tour for the tennis-like game.
State-backed Qatar Sports Investments said on Thursday that it had struck an agreement to buy World Padel Tour from Spanish beermakers Damm. Padel, which originated in Mexico and is sometimes called Padel Tennis, is played on an enclosed court.
QSI, owner of Premier Padel, intends to combine the two competitions into a new global circuit that will start next year. Padel’s popularity among amateur players is sparking a rush to build and operate clubs and stirring strong interest from investors.
Globally, padel is worth about €2bn a year, spanning club operators, rackets, clothing and other accessories, according to Deloitte, which expects the industry to treble in size over three years.
In March, Premier Padel said more than 110 leading female players had signed up to the tour. Padel also has potential to become an Olympic sport, potentially further boosting interest.
The International Padel Federation (FIP), the sport’s governing body, estimates that 25mn people play padel around the world. The number of courts worldwide could more than double to 84,000 over the same period, Deloitte said in a report with sports booking app Playtomic.
A1 Padel, a separate tour, earlier this year attracted investment from the parent company of the New York Yankees baseball franchise.
The takeover is part of a wider transformation of the world sport environment by investors from the Gulf. It resolves a battle for influence between QSI’s Premier Padel and the World Padel Tour, which is based in Madrid and more than a decade old. QSI and the FIP launched Premier Padel in early 2022.
In golf, the US PGA Tour initially resisted a rival team-based competition backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, but is now in talks over a formal partnership after ending costly legal battles.
QSI chair Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a keen padel player and former tennis professional, described the acquisition of World Padel Tour as “an historic moment” in the sport.
“QSI is proud to be at the heart of driving the development of padel professionally all around the world, always placing the players at the centre of our mission to grow the sport everywhere,” he said.
Demetrio Carceller Arce, executive chair of Damm, said the deal would “contribute to speeding up the tour’s international growth”.
Luigi Carraro, president of the International Padel Federation, welcomed the deal and said it would create a “fantastic global circuit”.
Damm entered merger talks with QSI and Premier Padel in January.