Exclusive: Polo’s governing body is to clamp down on danger riding and player behaviour, with a five-minute sin-bin aimed at high goal.
The Hurlingham Polo Association is set to bring in sin-binning across all forms of polo for the 2016 season as the governing body seeks to clamp down on dangerous play and abuse of umpires.
Speaking exclusively to Telegraph Sport, HPA chief executive David Woodd said: “We’ve got a meeting in February where we are discussing [the details of it] and I’m trying to put it into words [for the Blue Book].
Sin-binning is being done in the arena and it has worked well there, although it’s quite difficult in the arena because you have to open the gates and all that sort of thing. It’s been in place for two years.”
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Last November, the Arena Polo Committee and Arena Rules Committee reduced the length of time that a player should spend in the ‘bin’ from 90 seconds to 60 seconds.
“I think it does work. As always, it depends on the umpire. As with most things in life, it’s not usually the rules that are wrong, it’s the officiating that is wrong,” added Woodd. “It’s not different to the law of the land. The law of the land is fine, it’s just a question of whether it’s applied or not. At the moment (in field polo) we have the rest of the chukka or the rest of the match (as a sending off), both of which are pretty blunt instruments. You can be sent off in the chukka if there’s 30 seconds to go or if there’s six minutes to go.
“Those are two very different offences and there isn’t anything in between. We’re looking at a sin-bin which would probably be two minutes and would merely put the player back in the pony lines but off the field of play for two minutes to calm down and as a punishment to him personally and of course to the team.
“We don’t want to do something that umpires are too reluctant to impose or something which changes the result considerably for the game. That’s what we’re looking at. We’re looking at a two minute sin-bin and a five minute sin-bin. With the two minute sin-bin, there’s no reason why a person shouldn’t get two in the same game.”
The five-minute penalty “is targeted at the high goal”, explained Woodd.
“It will probably be for an outright, dangerous or deliberate foul. It could be dangerous but one-off offence,” he said. “It would not be for the first deliberate foul, maybe if someone did it twice. It may be for abuse of other players or the umpire.”
Apart from attempting to make the game safer, the HPA feels that player comportment during matches needs re-dressing.
“The thinking is that the good manners in polo have gone and won’t come back in a hurry. I think they’ve achieved it in rugby union because they’ve never lost it. Rugby has always been quite well behaved. Polo has certainly lost it. Not just lost it, but it’s become a business of working the umpires.
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“But we think that if somebody is sent off that is a chance for them to be seen publicly to be the perpetrator. They are singled out. I reckon that if somebody has been sin binned once, it’s not very helpful to the team, the patron’s not going to be very happy, and they might think twice next time.
“It’s definitely coming in this season if we can get the regulations in place and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t. It will be for everybody. I don’t see it being used a lot at the lower levels, but I’ve seen games at eight or twelve goal where somebody probably should be sin binned and now they would be.”
The HPA has canvassed opinion within the sport over the new regulations that would come in.
Woodd added: “We’ve canvassed opinion. And I think there is general support for it. The big debate between Argentina and England on it, I think Argentina have said it will work well, is that if somebody is sent off in Argentina they are allowed to be substituted.”
“We’re pretty anti that, which is why we’ve gone for a two-minute sin-bin because that is easy to manage, the guy is off the field, he doesn’t get substituted and at the end of two minutes play he comes back on.”