Unveiling Sport England’s First Padel Participation Figures

Infographic titled 'Racquet Sports Participation in England with a Spotlight on Padel' showing participation numbers for emerging and established sports. Emerging sports include Pickleball with 20,000 participants and Padel with 23,000 participants. Established sports show an average annual change since 2016: Squash has decreased by 7% to 250,000 participants, Table Tennis by 3% to 350,000, Badminton by 3% to 763,000, and Tennis has had a minor decrease of 0.5% to 861,000 participants. Icons represent each sport. Source: Sport England/Ipsos. At the bottom, a credit is given to Ray Algar, Oxygen Consulting, with the tagline 'strategic insight that moves people Image caption: Comparative Overview of Racquet Sports Participation in England, highlighting the growth of emerging sports such as Padel alongside traditional sports, with data sourced from Sport England and Ipsos and analysis by Ray Algar of Oxygen Consulting.



Sport England for the first time has captured padel participation in England. Their research indicates a core base of 23,000 English adult padel players (18,000 – 33,000 players with a 95% confidence interval). For context, you will see that tennis and badminton are the dominant established racquet sports. This new research, conducted by Ipsos, defines an adult player as over the age of 16 who participated at least twice in the sport in the past month when they were surveyed.

Declining Established Racquet Participation in England

It is interesting to look at the trend for the four established racquet sports which all show declines since 2016, so pre-dating the Covid-19 pandemic. There are 175,000 fewer squash players in England compared with seven years ago. What explains why established racquet sports participation has been declining? For some sports, there are fewer opportunities (venues) to play, but to what extent is it also physical capability and motivation?

The Joy of Sport

What struck me when I read the Sport England Active Lives report was how only 32% of people strongly agree with the statement: “I find sport enjoyable and satisfying.” It has been consistently at this same level for the past five years — just 25% for females.

Given that sport is a festival of different activities why is it not a time of absolute joy for more people? We know that more people are living with long-term health conditions and chronic pain and these people are less likely to be active so is ‘sport’, in all its forms, doing enough to adapt and effectively communicate to a changing population? Could emerging racquet sports like padel help more people to find exercise more intrinsically enjoyable?

My forthcoming UK Padel Report

As I research deeper into the sport of padel, I can see how it engages a wide inter-generational audience who do seem to find inherent and intrinsic joy in the sport — no need for an array of external incentives, points and rewards that nudge people to play. I am enjoying the opportunity to explore, decode and explain the padel ‘recipe.’

Strategic Partnership Opportunities

I would enjoy speaking with organisations that would like to be associated with Oxygen Consulting’s forthcoming UK padel report, especially those who are taking the long view to grow an inclusive and sustainable sport. Please get in touch with me to further explore this.


The Sport England Active Lives report for 2022-2023 can be found at this link.