From court to courtroom? Padel and tennis at war over ‘hostile’ takeover | Tennis

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It is one of the world’s fastest growing sports, 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 fought not only on the court but in the courtroom – after the sport’s governing body accused the International Tennis Federation of trying to mount a “hostile” takeover.

The Guardian can reveal that the International Padel Federation (FIP) has sent letters to the ITF threatening legal action amid claims that tennis is trying to make a “hostile attempt to take over the governance of padel without the consent of FIP or its members”.

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It comes as the ITF prepares to vote at its AGM in Glasgow on Monday on a proposal to “broaden 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 become one of the most popular participation sports in Spain, Sweden, Argentina and Italy. Britain is also catching up fast with over 89,000 active players. There are also rival professional tours and the sport is also lobbying for inclusion in the Olympics.

However, padel’s popularity has also attracted the interest of the ITF, which wants to bring it into tennis’s wider remit.

The ITF’s AGM agenda states: “Upon including padel in its scope, the ITF would have the mandate from the ITF members to act as the global governing body with the general objectives of harmonisation of sporting rules, fostering the growth and development of padel, advancing padel’s interests and promoting its integrity and reputation.”

However the president of the FIP, Luigi Carraro, has told the ITF that such a move would be a “serious breach” of the Olympic Charter.

“Throughout the sport’s existence, the ITF has never had any involvement in padel … and there is no basis – legally, constitutionally, practically or otherwise – for it to assert any role in the administrative affairs of the sport,” added Carraro in a letter, which has been seen by the Guardian, this week.

“It goes without saying that FIP stands prepared to take immediate and robust action should ITF take any action impacting upon FIP’s legal rights,” it adds.

“ITF’s actions would also be a serious breach of the principles of the Olympic Charter and IOC Code of Ethics, which make clear that sports must be able to function autonomously … and refrain from acts or statements likely to tarnish the image of a rival federation or damage it in any way.”

A spokesperson for the International Tennis Federation said: “Over 100 of the ITF’s national tennis association members 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 given the 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. Should the national associations vote in favour of us playing a role, the ITF would endeavour to progress in collaboration with existing stakeholders, including the Federación Internacional de Pádel (FIP) and other Tour organisers.”

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