As the inaugural Women’s Sport Week kicks off, Georgie Wood reports on why female players get scant support and what is being done to stem the tide
The largest growth areas of polo are through female players and the low goal scene in the UK. Yet, neither get enough support.
Women in Polo UK (WIP) is an organisation out to change this perception. We found ourselves for many years, baffled by the limited recognition of female players, the marginal sponsorship of women’s polo and the infrequent opportunities for up and coming players.
It doesn’t take much research to find the underrepresentation of ladies in the sport. You have to search hard on the Hurlingham Polo Association’s website to find an image of a female player and it is rare that one would feature on the front cover of a polo magazine.
Why this is so has become a hot topic of conversation recently and is open to debate, but it has also created an environment where change in the polo world is possible. This is why WIP was established.
Female polo is one of the fastest growth areas in the sport, as most women play at an amateur level. It is one reason why we plan to support both ladies and the low goal game. We are also pushing for regular coverage of ladies polo in the media, more opportunities for female players and more recognition and support from governing bodies.
We do not under-estimate the task in hand, but we have already begun our journey and have achieved some huge successes for 2015. Firstly, the inaugural WIP Ladies’ League launches this season, initially with Tidworth, Longdole, Inglesham, Taunton and New Forest polo clubs.
The league will play on the new ladies’ handicapping system, introduced by the HPA, and works on a points system so that teams can play in as few or as many weekends as they like. This is a huge step in the promotion of women’s polo and will hopefully encourage more ladies to get involved in regular, competitive play. If we are successful with these five clubs this year, we plan to expand the league to more clubs in 2016.
• ‘I wrote about women’s sport. This person didn’t like it’
• Ascot, the home of women’s polo
In addition, we have established an international polo exchange between ladies teams internationally. The first exchange is WIP UK v Colombia and will take place in August and September of this year.
We have become brand partners with ‘This Girl Can’, the sporting campaign established to encourage girls and women to be more active, and we have recently joined Glamour Magazine’s Campaign, ‘Say No To Sexism in Sport’. Each month we will also share player profiles and promote fitness and nutritional advice to our followers through our partnership with wellbeing advisor, Eve Patti.
We have worked hard to achieve what we have done to date and are pleased to say that we already have an extensive global following and believe that others support what we are doing. The polo world is lacking female voices, and we hope to change that.