Valiente go against HPA ruling

Following on from ‘Visagate’ there appears to have been another large knock to Anglo-Argentine relations over the weekend, ‘Helmetgate’. Our readers will have no doubt seen the social media frenzy following the first Prince of Wales matches at The Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club. Since 1 January this year, a new helmet rule has been introduced and enforced by the Hurlingham Polo Association, stating that all helmets must be type approved to the standard PAS015:1998 or PAS015:2011 with a CE Mark, SNELL E2001, VG1 01.040 2014-12 or UTAC/CRITT 04/2015.

Three players from the Valiente team (Adolfo Cambiaso, Christian ‘Magoo’ Laprida and patron, Rob Jornayvaz) refused to wear the newly approved helmets, with Cambiaso reportedly stating, “If something happens to me using this new helmet, I have the right to go against the HPA and the Club I’m playing at.” Jornayvaz and Laprida are yet to make a comment. At the time of the match, there was no representative from the HPA present, but Michael Amoore, the General Manager of RCBPC, approached the Valiente players during the third chukka break to request the players change their helmets. According to sources, Cambiaso presented Amoore with a legal letter stating that if the HPA and the Club force him to wear a certain type of helmet, they must insure him against injury. He requested that the Club sign the document, but they did not. Cambiaso, Laprida and Jornayvaz were let back onto the field for the remainder of the match, directly going against the HPA’s new rule.
Polo Times has been made aware that Cambiaso sent a letter to the HPA earlier this year explaining his views about the new helmet rule, to which the HPA responded with the reasoning for the introduction of the new regulations. In response to the weekend’s match, the HPA sent an email to all Clubs stating the following:
“When players join the HPA they agree to abide by the HPA Rules. If you feel it necessary or appropriate for any individual players, please pass on the following:
Playing in a helmet that has not been approved as compliant by the HPA is against the rules and club officials have been instructed to stand any player down from playing until they have complied with the rules. Playing or attempting to play in a non-compliant helmet may be subject to disciplinary action by the HPA.”
As ever, there are two sides to every story, but really there should only be one side here. The HPA came under great pressure to drag polo into the 21st century and enforce a standard for polo helmets. As polo has a somewhat questionable reputation for pony and player safety and welfare in the wider equine community, it is only right that our discipline now has at least some degree of hat safety ruling. How can polo be viewed as a prospective Olympic sport or avoid litigation in head injury cases without reform? If the European standard adopted is considered safe by professionals for racing, show jumping and cross country, how can it possibly be so unsafe for polo? Apparently Cambiaso has issue with those helmets which have been designed and approved by the HPA for polo, but don’t forget, if all else fails he can pop to his local tack shop and pick up a basic skull cap which conforms to all EU hat regulations, is perfectly acceptable to jockeys tackling National Hunt fences up and down the country and meets the HPA criteria. Now that would be a sight worth seeing.
It is disappointing that the best polo player in the world and other online polo publications have chosen a contrary view. One can be forgiven for suggesting that it is nothing to do with helmets and a whole lot more to do with visas and/or egos.
What is equally disappointing is that the HPA have not enforced the new regulations more rigorously and ‘headed off Cambiaso at the pass’ before the topic became an issue. To have no HPA presence or legal representation at RCBPC at the weekend to stop players before they even put a foot in their stirrups for the first chukka is incomprehensible, particularly as Cambiaso had made his views known beforehand.
However, despite the lack of teeth shown so far by the HPA, the UK has introduced hat safety rules for a reason and those that play here must abide by those rules. Get on and play or go home, is surely the stance that should be firmly adopted?
Valiente are next due to take to the field on Wednesday 16 May against 2017 champions Emlor in The Prince of Wales Trophy and it remains to be seen how the HPA and RCBPC will react should the players choose not to abide by the helmet regulation.

Photograph: RCBPC General Manager Michael Amoore was seen talking to Adolfo Cambiaso during the third chukka break. By Anita Cozzi