- WPT to drop lawsuits against players who sign up to deal
- Increased prize money part of proposal
- Pact would reportedly kick in from 2023 and run for five years
The World Padel Tour (WPT) has unveiled plans for a new event and business model as it continues to jostle for market space with the Qatar-backed Premier Padel.
As well as increased prize money, the WPT is set to remove exclusivity clauses in its contracts, meaning players would be free to compete in both rival tours.
According to Spanish newspaper Marca, prize money for the World Master Final will be €500,000 (US$489,000) for male and female players. Parity will end there, though, with ‘BIG’ events offering €600,000 (US$587 million) for the men and €300,000 (US$294,000) for the women.
Additionally, Men’s Open 300 events are set to have prize money of €300,000, women’s Open 150s will offer €150,000 (US$147 million), while men’s Open 100 and women’s Open 60 competitions will feature prize funds of €100,000 (US$ 97,900) and €60,000 (US$58,700), respectively.
In May, the WPT took legal action against the International Padel Federation (FIP), the Professional Players Association (PPA) and Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) over Premier Padel, which launched earlier this year.
The lawsuit accused the defendants of encouraging WPT players to breach contract, and subsequently benefiting from such breaches, as well as denigrating the Damm-owned circuit.
However, the WPT learned in July that it would no longer be able to bring a joint arbitration lawsuit against its players who had competed in Premier Padel.
Now, the WPT has said its current lawsuit against the players will be immediately withdrawn if they sign up to the new deal.
The plans, which would kick from the 2023 season, will reportedly be presented to players in the coming days and last for five years.
In short, the WPT is not regulated by the FIP and has been accused of tying players to its tour, as well as offering low pay and no involvement in decision-making processes. The FIP and PPA subsequently submitted a complaint to the European Commission accusing the WPT and Damm of breaking European Union (EU) competition law. Premier Padel also claimed the WPT had threatened players with hefty fines if they competed in the new circuit.
A number of factors likely prompted the WPT’s new proposal, including its legal setback, pressure from players, and the financial might of QSI, which is led by BeIN Media and Paris Saint-Germain chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Whatever the reason, the hostilities between the WPT and Premier Padel don’t seem to be ending.
A source close to Premier Padel told SportsPro that the latest development is “all about Estrella Damm and WPT’s self-interest and PR games”, adding that its promise to withdraw legal action against players is the equivalent of “legal blackmail”. The WPT’s increased prize money, the source continued, also remains less than Premier Padel’s offering.
The success of the plans will depend on athlete backing. Given the majority of top men’s players reportedly boycotted an initial meeting, there looks to be several hurdles ahead for the WPT.