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Wed 11th Sep 2019

Vision for Polo

A realistic goal or rose-tinted glasses?

On Friday 6 September, the HPA quietly released an updated document following the circulation of the Vision for Polo consultation paper.
 
Click here now to read the updated HPA Vision for Polo Consultation Paper. 
 
The initial document, a manifesto from incoming Chairman Nick Wiles, stated his ‘vision for polo’ over the next five years, outlining what he sees as the main areas to be addressed: the development of the sport, reviewing the handicapping framework, the development of youth polo, improving behaviour and discipline, a review of governance and introducing a reviewed commercial strategy.
Following consultation with members over the past month, the Vision for Polo document has been updated with the compilation of members views and concerns. According to the HPA, the response from the polo fraternity has been extensive, with the widest range of views centred on the issues of handicapping, tournament conditions and umpiring. The main concern appears to be regarding the transparency of the handicapping policy and the fairness associated with this, but this concern does not seem to have been addressed at all in this document, with the HPA stating “In due course, once the new committees have been established, members should expect clarity as to how this will be achieved”. In our current issue, we take an in-depth look at the UK handicapping system, following on from Mark Tomlinson’s emotive article The HPA… “57 Old Farts?, first released in our publication in June 2014 and re-released this month, and following the end of this year’s high goal season. This was in response to a general feeling of ‘the need for change’, as well as in order to address the challenges our system comes up against, we spoke to four of the UK’s biggest club’s Polo Managers to get their take on the anomalies in our system.  
Looking deeper into the document, the HPA propose a more cohesive strategy for regional clubs – as we all know that grass-roots polo is the beating heart of polo in the UK, a point of which the HPA are keen to shout about and not “under-estimate.” There is great care and detail taken to address the fall in regional players and support initiatives to develop a three year plan to generate membership and interest, despite ambiguous statements regarding the state of British membership. 
Furthermore, in support of British players, the HPA proposes a post-Brexit rule, “that every team at every level is required to have at least one British player other than the patron”, including at high goal level. With this in mind, they also propose that team patrons and U18 overseas players adhere to a ‘no rewards’ rule, starting from the beginning of the 2020 season, but surely the attraction of U18 overseas players, such as ‘Jeta’ Castagnola and Poroto Cambiaso, free of charge, have the reverse effect?
On the extremely positive end of the spectrum, the HPA’s commitment to the development of our sport and education in polo is clear, with key factors proposed for those wishing to leave education earlier than usual to pursue a career in polo, as well as a coordinated programme across all regions to find and introduce new youth players to the sport. 
Later on, the paper looks at the issues raised regarding standards of conduct, behaviour, discipline and animal welfare. With these issues being of a critical nature, the HPA appears to feel that further consideration is required and does not address the questions raised, as of yet. 
With many unanswered questions, some feel the HPA is yet to address some of the most salient issues, but their willingness to open the subject to players and members is encouraging. We are all in the same boat, wanting to improve our sport exponentially, especially with the uncertainty of Brexit on the imminent horizon, but do the proposed changes go far enough? The HPA refer to introducing further committees to address a number of issues, including the three different constituencies, 22 goal, Victor Ludorum/polo at bigger clubs and regional polo, but surely this is committee introduction for the sake of committee introduction, when the governing body has 15 committees already in action? Of further, and arguably greater, concern is the process by which representatives are currently ‘invited’ to join said committees. Greater transparency is very much the order of the day – let’s hope that complete transparency is embraced so as to avoid the ‘jobs for the boys’ analogy and cries of cronyism that currently abound. 
Suffice to say, it must be viewed as a positive that the HPA has recognised its short comings, but time will tell whether these proposed changes can and do come to fruition. 
We would love to hear your thoughts regarding the future of our sport. Please get in touch, by clicking here or call us on +44 (0)1452 730 770, with your views. 

 


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