A Master’s final project takes paddle fever to Amsterdam

Marc Kluft, a former student of the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam, inaugurates the first mobile paddle courts in the Dutch capital in order to publicize the sport that moves 600 million euros per year in Spain

To bring paddle fever to Amsterdam was the reason why he established his residence in the Netherlands 18 months ago, the reason that led Marc Kluft Rovira to study the Master in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam and the project with which he wants to be part of the sports industry. He will see his dream come true this June 11 with the opening of his company, Padel Dam, in a perfect setting for the occasion.

The sports center De Eendracht Amsterdam will have a new sport to offer its customers: two covered paddle courts that will share space with 6 tennis courts, 1 beach volleyball court, 1 handball court, 1 basketball court, 7 football pitches, 2 with artificial grass, 3 pitches and a stadium for playing rugby and American football. All thanks to the initiative of a 26-year-old with very clear ideas about the possibility of choice. Marc has dual nationality, Dutch from his father and Spanish from his mother, and is a graduate in Sport Science and Physical Activity from INEFC Barcelona. “Once I graduated from INEFC I decided I wanted to continue my education and specialize in sport management. Having been born in Holland I thought of going back to my roots and spending some time there. The Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam offered me the opportunity to meet both objectives, so in September 2014 I moved here,” says Marc.

He was already part of a business that, in Spain, currently moves more than 600 million euros per year and has 4.2 million practitioners, according to data from a survey of sports habits in Spain carried out in 2015 by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and the CSD (Spanish sports council). Marc was a paddle player and trainer at his club in La Garriga (Barcelona), where, as has happened at many other clubs, the paddle courts were taking over from the tennis courts. Marc also changed his racket strings for fiber and got hooked on a sport that is growing in followers. “The Casino de La Garriga, where I have played all my life, built two paddle courts in 2008 and I undertook promoting the tournaments and livening up the courts,” he recalls.

A Master’s final project takes paddle fever to Amsterdam - Johan Cruyff Institute

And when he started the Master in Sport Management he was already clear that his next step was to make the leap from trainer to entrepreneur. “I put all my energy into making this project become a reality, and without the help of my classmates and teachers on the Master I would never have reached the point where I am now.”

Paddle tennis is a young sport in the Netherlands and people only started talking about it when Guus Hiddink signed for PSV Eindhoven. The Dutch coach got so hooked on this sport during his time in Spain as coach of Real Madrid and Betis, that when he signed for PSV he asked the club to make a paddle court in its sports facilities. In 2010, the Dutch Paddle Federation (Nederlandse Padelbond) was created and from a month ago has been working with the Dutch Tennis Federation (KNLTB) to organize the first national competition circuit.

Marc Kluft wants to ride the wave and his business model is perfectly designed for it. “Padel Dam adapts to the situation that paddle is going through in Holland right now and also to the weather conditions. The courts are mobile, because I want to be able to change location if necessary, and I can use them as a promotional tool,” explains Marc. “In addition, from November, when it gets cold and the weather gets worse, the intention is to build retractable covers for the courts. The big advantage is that in this way I can offer my customers the possibility to play ‘indoor’ or ‘outdoor’ on the same courts, always with the same playing conditions depending on the circumstances.”

According to the Dutch Paddle Federation, there are now 23 places where you can play in the Netherlands, of which 18 are members of the Federation, and of these only one is ‘indoor’. “My goal is to make paddle known in Amsterdam and, eventually, become the best paddle club in the city, with the best playing conditions. For now, I have no competition, which means I can attract a very diverse social mix of players and teach them to enjoy this great sport,” says Marc.

With this ambition and business perspective, Marc has attracted the interest of two companies that will help with the project. “I am the sole owner of Padel Dam BV, but I have the invaluable active collaboration of Redsport, my court supplier, and PadelBouw, its distributor in the Netherlands. Redsport is a good friend of mine from La Garriga and was the first one interested in having a ‘showroom’ in Amsterdam. I offer them the first paddle club in West Amsterdam and they offer me a financing plan that allows me to start without having to resort to external financing.”

A Master’s final project takes paddle fever to Amsterdam - Johan Cruyff Institute

Marc Kluft travelled to Barcelona for his study trip in 2015

With the drive and excitement he feels as he is about to open his company, Marc Kluft now looks back and says that “everything I learned during the Master has been helpful for the development of this project. I could give a thousand examples of how my classmates and teachers have helped me, but I would mainly highlight the values that I was taught during the Master and the confidence and energy I received from everyone to move on.”

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