Qatar serves notice of sporting ambition with global padel merger

The Gulf’s growing prominence in international sport will take another step forward on Thursday when a Qatari state vehicle unveils a deal to create a new global padel tour.

Sky News has learnt that Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), the owner of Paris Saint-Germain, the French Ligue 1 football club, will announce it has formally agreed to acquire the World Padel Tour (WPT).

The purchase of WPT from Damm, the owner of Setpoint Events, which organises the tour, will lead to the establishment of a new global Premier Padel tour, launching next year, according to insiders.

The value of the deal was not clear on Thursday, although one source said an announcement was expected later in the day.

QSI’s existing sporting interests include ownership of Paris Saint-Germain

Padel is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, with tens of millions of participants globally.

In Spain, it is now the second-biggest participation sport behind football, meaning it ranks ahead of tennis despite the superstar status during the last two decades of Rafael Nadal, the former world number one.

Sir Andy Murray is also a backer of the sport, having invested in Game4Padel, an Edinburgh-based group.

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For QSI, the takeover will serve notice of its sporting ambitions following the state’s hosting of the men’s World Cup late last year.

A Qatari businessman is also regarded as the frontrunner to take control of Manchester United if the controlling Glazer family ultimately decides to sell the club, although that would not be deemed a state-backed deal.

Padel is Spain’s most popular participation sport behind football

The acquisition of WPT will add to a portfolio of interests which includes PSG and a near-22% stake in the Portuguese football club Sporting Braga.

It is also understood to be looking to buy a stake in Sampdoria, the Italian second-tier side.

Saudi Arabia is also ploughing tens of billions of dollars into becoming a global sporting powerhouse, having taken over Newcastle United FC with its Public Investment Fund.

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A man plays paddle tennis in the newly built paddle tennis court Padel Rush, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2022

The Saudis are also investing heavily in the Saudi Pro League, its own football league, with clubs having recently signed players such as the Liverpool and England midfielder Jordan Henderson and the Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez.

In recent months, it has also struck an outline agreement to unite the breakaway LIV Golf series with its US and European counterparts, and been linked with a $20bn offer to acquire control of Formula One.

The chairman of the Association of Tennis Professionals said recently he had held talks with PIF about possible investments in the men’s game.

The growing proliferation of Gulf-based sporting investments has provoked accusations of ‘sportswashing’ in an effort to mask criticisms over states’ human rights records.

QSI declined to comment on Thursday morning.

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