Governance at heart of Pieres outburst as Argentina captain makes impassioned demand for world polo to make urgent fundamental changes.
Facundo Pieres has launched a withering attack on the way polo is being run, insisting that changes must be made at the top end of the sport in its systems, the way it treats patrons, and urged the Argentine Polo Association to make drastic changes.
Pieres is critical of the way the Argentine Open is staged in Palermo, and believes the world’s most influential governing body should take responsibility for the changes he believes must be made for the betterment of the sport.
In a staggeringly honest, and at times, self-deprecating plea, one of the world’s leading 10-goal players believes that patrons investing too much in the top end of the game, from which he himself admits he benefits, could be forcing patrons who have no hope of winning major tournaments to turn away from the sport.
Pieres has called for a ‘capping-system’ similar to the NBA, which has limited the spend per team, and even added that he believes “the management of referees is a disaster”.
Pieres made clear, however, that he did not believe the refereeing had caused Ellerstina’s defeat in the Argentine Open, but remains critical of the fact that English referees oversee the game differently, with different rules. The bottom line for Pieres is that Argentine referees, not English ones, should be overseeing major tournaments in their own country.
For two years running, English referees have overseen the Argentine Open final in Palermo.
In an interview with ClickPolo in Argentina, Pieres said: “If you’re thinking only about yourself, the things I am suggesting don’t suit me, but there is a necessity to change things. I have good patrons, patrons who spend so much on the game; but I’m thinking about polo itself. I want changes – even changes that perhaps don’t favour me – but I think there are things to change in the world of polo and I want to try to make things happen.
“I don’t know why things are like they are, but I want to get together with Adolfito [Cambiaso] in the United States and speak about polo. I don’t see anyone making the changes or doing anything to make these things happen. Some important people who have influence in the game can join in and we can help the game move on.”
“We have the best sporting event in the world in polo and yet it is weak.”
Pieres suggests a change in structure and organisation of the finals day at Palermo, and believes that changes must be made, too, in the sport in England and in the United States. “There used to be more teams, and it’s important to change things from today because if we don’t, the sport is heading down a bad road.”
• 2014 final: Umpire Peter Wright interview
• 2015 final: Umpire Julian Appleby interview
Pieres suggests polo looks at other sports – like the NBA in the United States, where salaries and spending on teams is capped. The Argentine outlined a 10-point plan which includes an NBA-style ‘capping system’, which he believes would even up the game for many of the teams.
Certainly, in England, it has become the norm for ‘super teams’ like King Power, and Dubai, to dominate. It is thus in Argentina, moreover, with Ellerstina and La Dolfina, the latter having just won the Triple Triple – effectively winning nine major tournaments consecutively. Players have talked openly this season of only two teams out of eight being capable of winning trophies in Argentina in the high-goal events. Pieres, of course, plays a major role for both King Power and Ellerstina.
In the pro-am game, more patrons should be encouraged to bring teams into the sport, but with a genuine chance of competing, and also, winning.
“Changes in England, the United States and Argentina,” Pieres told ClickPolo, “would make the sport more of a spectacle.”
Leading lights such as Eduardo Heguy said that he agreed “100 per cent with Pieres and it is great that a player with such standing is saying these things.”