HPA releases handicap list

On Thursday 20 September, the HPA released their 2018 end of season handicap changes. These changes are causing significant debate as, broadly speaking it means that many -1 and -2 goal players will move up handicap. Those who have played in 8 goal Victor Ludorum tournaments will automatically move up to a 0 rating. Whilst it is an HPA rule, (reference Part Two, Annex B) it is only now that the movement of this bracket of players has been encouraged by the HPA to be enforced. The idea is that the ‘bottleneck’ of -1 and -2 level players will be alleviated, and this can only be for the good. Handicapping is a contentious issue and is certainly one that is well overdue for reform, but it is the way in which the changes have been made that has overshadowed the good intentions behind the directive.

The HPA’s guidelines (including that a player with a 1 goal handicap should be judged on being able solely to have a 50 percent chance of taking the ball from the halfway line to goal, with no specification of speed or marking) has been met with derision. The directive has also been widely criticised by clubs and members due to lack of consultation from the HPA being cited as an issue. Prior to the release of the handicap changes, Polo Times was informed that the Club’s Handicap Committees received the following email on 4 September regarding the proposed changes. We contacted the HPA on Monday 17 September regarding this email and received no comment.
The HPA guidelines for handicapping issued on the 4th September 2018
The clubs were asked to use the following guide:
“I think that all we can say is that with the -2s being pushed up to -1 and the -1s to 0 then the better 0s will need to go +1 and the better 1s should then go to +2 and so on.
In essence, if a player has a 50/50 chance of running to goal from the halfway line or other players are turning on his back hand, they should probably be 1.”
The following two emails were sent from the HPA regarding the matter: a factual email and a rationale email, as well as a link to the changes – http://www.hpa-polo.co.uk/eos-handicap-changes/.
Email One: 
Dear All,
 
Please circulate this to all your members.
 
The lists can also be seen on the HPA website.
 
Many clubs have done their best to follow the guidelines below but inevitably some have interpreted the guidelines differently. Clubs are therefore being offered the opportunity to review the handicaps awarded to their members in the light of the handicaps awarded to players at other clubs. If any player is unhappy, they should ask their club to put forward their case, copied to the HPA. Please note that the proposed tournament conditions for 2019 will not allow anyone to play in the 8 goal and above unless they are 0 goals.
The guidelines in Annex B of the Blue Book state as follows:
·      A –2 goal player may play in tournaments up to 6 goals and a club may award a –2 handicap to a playing member once they have passed the rules test and are considered safe. The club must inform the HPA in writing that their member has been raised to –2.
·      A –1 goal player may play in any tournaments up to 12 goals for which he is eligible. A player should be raised to -1 once they have become an established and playing member of the club.
·      A 0 goal player may play in any tournaments, including High Goal, for which he is eligible. A player should be raised to 0 once they are safe to play 8 goal or above and have achieved success in tournaments
 
In addition, Stewards have endorsed the principle that the Committee should not protect the younger players to the extent that they have done to date and should move towards putting younger players up in handicap more readily to encourage them to play to their handicap and to allow other young players a chance.
 
If you do not appear on either handicap list and believe you are a full playing member of the HPA then please contact the HPA office.
 
Kind regards,
Lucinda.
 
Lucinda Wright 
Membership, Communication and Passports
Email Two: The Rationale
Dear Clubs
 
Please pass on to your members.
 
The main reasoning for reaffirming the handicap rationale is explained below:
 
• The minus handicap bracket was originally an introductory level. There will always be exceptions to the rule but it seemed odd that a player could hold a minus handicap year upon year if they were playing regularly. Indeed there are players out there that have held a -2 handicap for 5 to 10 years, which doesn’t seem right for an introductory level handicap. This is replicated for -1.
• There is a huge number of minus goal players (approx. 90% of the playing membership) which creates a bottle neck at this level. Granted we have shifted the bottle neck upwards but we hope that it will have elongated somewhat, making the handicap system more fair, understanding it is not a perfect system.
• The big clubs have artificially kept players down, for a variety of reasons.
• It is hoped it will foster development and growth in the sport. It is a sport where seemingly no one wants get better!
 
This isn’t a new concept. A number of low goal clubs have been consulted and though some have disagreed with our rationale, there are more who have seen this as a positive move.  As stated we are simply reaffirming the handicap rationale. But as a low goal polo manager put it, it has ‘the aim of creating a more balanced polo system that will allow players lower down to flourish more readily.’
 
Thank you for your understanding
 
Kind regards
 
Will
 
Will Mawby MBA
Communications 
There has been general concern about these changes over the past week, with much controversy over the handicap rules as stated in Part Two Annex B. Clubs have been quoted as saying, “During a period of change their needs to be a period of consultation with those affected, which we feel has not been given to players by the HPA.”
We have also received the subsequent comments following the announcement:
Comment One: “Many low goal teams have gone up 3 goals overnight from a -1 team to an uncompetitive 2 goal team – resulting in that we need to change the pro… and then need to livery horses to a different yard … potentially change Club to where the new pro is based etc ?!”
Comment Two: “The timing could not be worse as low goal polo is already on its knees. The HPA need to make time to visit every Club in the country at least once every three years to get a better understanding of what is happening at every level of the sport before making any further changes – the low goal patron’s polo enjoyment is equally valid as the higher goal players!”
Comment Three: “The HPA’s arrogance beggars’ belief. The end of season handicaps are a complete shambles – full of inconsistency and bias.”
Clubs will now go through a two week ‘teething period’ following the handicap changes, with members invited to speak to their Club representatives to share their opinions.
We would be very interested to hear your views. Should you wish to share your opinions on the new HPA handicaps with us, please contact Polo Times here.