A game-changer on the UK padel scene

16 April 2024

Padel is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Seeking to satisfy the Londoner’s appetite for the renowned tennis-squash fusion, is SCC member Padium. Having recently opened its first UK facility in the heart of Canary Wharf, Padium strives to offer a premium padel experience for all skill levels, across the country. Founder Houman Ashrafzadeh tells us about the love for the sport, the hurdles faced in the process of setting up the business, and his entrepreneurial mindset making Padium go from idea to reality.

Despite having lived over two decades in London, with its rich selection of sports and wellness activities, it was not until Houman went on a trip back home to Sweden around six years ago that he came to discover his love for padel.  

“My brother told me: ‘Hey, you should join us, we’re playing this new sport padel tonight.’ I joined him and instantly fell in love with the game - it was just such a fun sport. I got really addicted. Every time I went back to Helsingborg after that, I played with my brother and his friends.”

From enthusiasm to business
As the padel-boom hit Sweden, Houman saw club after club opening up, offering the public padel-experiences of all kinds and preferences. Back in London, however, there were only two outdoor-courts available at the time. And, as is often with innovation - stemming from a personal passion and an unmet need - Houman asked himself: Why don’t I do something about it?  

“My vision became clear in the sense that I wanted to build something more aligned with what I had seen in Sweden at the time. Partly because I wanted to play padel, but also because I thought that this could be good business.”

Reflecting on the characteristics of the sport that has made it so popular, Houman is positive that the social aspect plays an important part:

“The learning curve in padel is very fast. But since the court size is smaller than in tennis, for example, you can have a bit of banter going on in the court, making it social. I think it’s just the perfect combination between the two.”

Bringing the idea to life 
After the idea developed further, Houman started to reach out to friends and contacts in the UK to share his thoughts. However, no one was familiar with padel at the time and didn’t express interest to the extent he would have hoped for. It wasn’t until another trip to Sweden a conversation sparked that would change it all.

“I went on a casual dinner with Martin Lorentzon. Since he also loves padel, we naturally started talking about it. I casually mentioned my idea, and he said ‘Look, I’d love to be part of this if you’re serious’. Once I had his blessing in backing - that’s when the real journey started.”

With newfound momentum, Houman started pursuing the plan of building the most premium padel club in the UK. Already having the benefit of being familiar with the process of setting up a business, he started by reaching out to a contact in Canary Wharf. 

“I pitched my idea to them, and they liked it. We got the land, we secured it, and then the long process of building the club started - which was very complicated. It was completely out of budget and a bunch of other obstacles came in the way, but obstacles are there to be overcome. And that’s the mindset that I’ve always had since becoming an entrepreneur.”

Looking ahead
As the facility started taking shape – so did the team, and in September 2023 the 30,000 square feet club stood ready to welcome both padel enthusiasts and curious first-timers. 

“It’s a premium club, but it’s open for everyone. It’s very much a Swedish democratic model where you don’t necessarily need a membership. We want to be very inclusive in that sense.” 

From tournaments for experienced players to coached introductory lessons, Houman envisions Padium as a hub for padel-enthusiasts across all skill levels. And its establishment is only the beginning of a bigger quest of redefining the padel-landscape in the UK. 

Despite challenges such as regulatory complexities, finding appropriate properties, and not least planning permissions, he intends to continue expanding the community, making elevated padel experiences accessible across the UK.  

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