The inaugural series of Premier Padel, the sport’s new merged and combined competition, got underway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in late February.

The series arrived after the acquisition of the World Padel Tour (WPT) by Qatar Sports Investments, which has now merged that series with its own Premier Padel offering. These series had previously been rivals (and legal opponents).

QSI runs Premier Padel but will be governed by the International Padel Federation (FIP). A potential merger was first mooted in May 2023.

The inaugural 2024 calendar features 25 tournaments across five continents and 17 countries. It began on February 26 in Riyadh and will finish in Barcelona, Spain, in late December.

With the series having been going for around three months, and with its inaugural title sponsor – Qatar Airways – unveiled late last week, Rob Mitchell, Premier Padel’s chief executive, talked to Sportcal (GlobalData Sport).

With the Rome Major event taking place currently, he analyzes how the series has gone so far, some of the main challenges, the current state of Premier Padel’s commercial and media partners portfolio, and its long-term ambitions.

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Following the first swing of major Premier Padel events, what has been the honest appraisal of the first few months?

"It has been an incredibly busy start to 2024 – both on and off the court – it is our first year of running a unified global professional tour for padel. We are very proud that in such a short period of time we have brought together the elite men’s and women’s competition and we are playing in the most iconic venues and bringing in new fans.

"We are hosting 25 tournaments across 17 countries this year and have already completed several magnificent tournaments across the Middle East, Europe, and South America – including the Qatar Major in Doha and tournaments at new locations for 2024, most recently Paraguay and Chile. It’s an important part of the global growth of padel. 

"Off the court, we have recently completed the acquisition of the World Padel Tour (WPT) – unifying the professional game – and this week we have announced a multi-year partnership with Qatar Airways that will see it become the title sponsor of Premier Padel, in addition to tour finals title sponsor and official airline partner. This follows several tour-level partnerships with Red Bull, Wilson, Bullpadel, MejorSet, Mondo, and Playtomic which have already come on board during 2024."

What have been the main challenges encountered and how have these been combated?

"Running one fully combined global tour – 25 tournaments across 17 countries – naturally brings its challenges.

"Some areas have been more challenging than others – particularly when we are bringing the tour to countries that have less experience at hosting big sporting events. This has involved working closely with a host of new promoters to help them understand the gold standard we require when hosting a high-quality tournament on a professional tour.

"It has been a learning experience for everyone involved and managing the expectations of players is very important. There will, of course, be teething issues when launching a global tour from scratch, but even the most high-profile sporting events in the world have event imperfections – just look at the pothole challenges that [motor racing's] Formula 1 faced in Las Vegas last year.

"This is why we are working around the clock to ensure the highest standards for players and we are always looking at ways to professionalize the sport for the players – working closely with the PPA and IPPA – by improving their experience, welfare, infrastructure, and prize money for both the men’s and women’s games.

Premier Padel came from a desire to better serve the players – so that padel could reach the heights of professionalism that the sport deserves. This is why we are putting our players first and focusing on building an environment that can help them and the sport grow. We are continuing to build our team – that takes time – and we are continuing to improve our international tour structures and operations.

Has the public perception been what you have been hoping for?

"It’s been incredible to see fans engaging with Premier Padel and the rapid growth of the sport around the world. We recognize our responsibility in helping to shape the future of the sport by driving standards, creating international tournaments, and connecting the amateur and professional game – by involving the sport’s biggest stars and enhancing our fan experiences to reach new audiences in new countries. 

"We have also seen rapid growth across our digital platforms and fans interacting online – we are approaching 1 million combined followers across all Premier Padel social media platforms – and this has been propelled by the quality of our tournaments, the broadcast investment, and an effective content strategy which is bringing Premier Padel to the attention of fans. Indeed, we launched our new website last week and are also in the process of finalizing a new fan app and also a player portal which will further upgrade our digital delivery."

What are the thoughts on the series' current broadcast line-up and sponsorship portfolio at this stage, and are there plans in the near future to add to these?

"We are always looking at ways to elevate the visibility of Premier Padel to new global audiences – we want to drive reach, access, and visibility – this is possible through premium partners and worldwide reach. Our new multi-year partnership with Red Bull TV is a fantastic example of this in action – it is the most significant broadcast, production, and sponsorship agreement in the sport’s history and supports our strategy of growing the sport with new audiences around the world via its media and digital platform network across 130 countries.

"We have broadcast agreements with major broadcasters – including Red Bull TV, BeIN Sports, Canal Plus, Sky, and ESPN – and are now broadcasting to 242 territories worldwide across six continents.

"We have also struck deals with a range of sponsors – including with Qatar Airways last week as the title sponsor of Premier Padel – and others including Bullpadel (official technical apparel and racket partner); Wilson (official ball supplier), MejorSet (official court partner), Mondo (official turf provider) and Playtomic (global community app partner) which we think demonstrates the sporting and commercial potential of Premier Padel.

"We are focusing on our commercial model, to make the most out of media, digital, and sponsorship opportunities, and can expect more to come on this front in the coming months."

What are the main highlights of the next set of events?

"We are excited for the tour to swing back into Europe – bringing the tour to some of the most iconic venues in the world. This follows a fantastic South American leg of the season – it was great to bring the tour to new fans and locations. 

"Initially, we're looking forward to the second major tournament of the year in the incredible Foro Italico in Rome at the end of June – this will be followed by WiZink Centre (Madrid), AHOY in Rotterdam and the iconic Roland Garros (Paris) which are incredible stages for the world’s best players to showcase their talents ahead of the tour finals in Barcelona in December.

"For the fans, we are looking forward to launching our official Premier Padel collection which we have developed with Bullpadel, along with several grassroots competitions and activations in host cities with Playtomic."

Although at an early stage, does this series feel like one that will be around for the long-term?

"We have ambitions for the entire sport – we think Premier Padel is the best padel product in the world – and the tour has already created amazing opportunities for all players and boosted the visibility of the sport globally.

"We are working hard to make the tour the very best for all – players, promoters, fans, sponsors, broadcasters, everyone. With QSI, this is happening on and off the court – Premier Padel is charting its own path, and we don’t compare ourselves to anyone. At the very heart of the Premier Padel tour are the players – it was conceived for the players to have the platform and opportunity to play in the best conditions and at the best level.

"Our goal remains to create a truly global tour – where there will be fans and players across the world. 2024 will be a transformational season for Premier Padel – it is an incredibly exciting time for the tour and everyone involved. 

"Our plans for 2025 are ongoing – including having a dynamic calendar which will be player-focused whilst supporting our plans to bring the tour to new countries, and also supporting the International Padel Federation in its long-term vision and ambition for padel to be included in the Olympic Games."