It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, a cross between tennis and squash that is enjoyed by Andy Murray, Jürgen Klopp and thousands of others across the UK. But the future of padel could soon be played out not just on the court, but in court – after the sport’s governing body accused the International Tennis Federation (ITF) of trying to mount a “hostile” takeover.
The Guardian may reveal that the International Padel Federation (FIP) has sent letters to the ITF threatening legal action amid allegations that tennis is trying to make a “hostile attempt to take over the governance of padel without the consent of the FIP or its members”. ”.
This comes as the ITF prepares to vote at its AGM in Glasgow on Monday on a proposal to “widen its scope to develop and govern padel on behalf of its members”.
Padel, which was invented in Mexico in the 1960s, has grown rapidly in recent years and has become one of the most popular participation sports in Spain, Sweden, Argentina and Italy. Great Britain is also catching up quickly with over 89,000 active players. There are also rival professional tours and the sport is also lobbying for inclusion in the Olympics.
However, the popularity of padel has also attracted the interest of the ITF, which wants to bring it into the wider field of tennis.
The ITF AGM agenda states: “By including padel in its scope, the ITF would have the mandate of the ITF members to act as the global governance body with the general objectives of harmonizing sports rules, promoting growth and development of padel, advancing the interests of padel and promoting its integrity and reputation.”
However, FIP President Luigi Carraro told the ITF that such a move would be a “grave violation” of the Olympic Charter.
“Throughout the sport’s existence, the ITF has never had any involvement in padel… and there is no basis – legal, constitutional, practical or otherwise – to assert any role in the sport’s administrative affairs,” Carraro added in a letter, which was seen by the Guardian this week.
“It goes without saying that the FIP is prepared to take immediate and robust action should the ITF take any action that affects the legal rights of the FIP,” he adds.
“The ITF’s actions would also be a serious violation of the principles of the Olympic Charter and the IOC. [International Olympic Committee] Code of Ethics, which makes it clear that sport must be able to function autonomously…
An ITF spokesperson said: “More than 100 members of the ITF national tennis association already lead or are actively contributing to the development of Padel tennis around the world and much of the growth of the sport is happening in tennis clubs, due to crossover and ability to share infrastructure, including players, coaches, officials and facilities.
“As a result, the ITF has been asked by its members to consider how we can support them in the global development of Padel and they will vote on this at our AGM. If national associations vote in favor of us playing a role, the ITF will strive to make progress in collaboration with existing stakeholders, including the FIP and other tourism organizers.”