Guards Club’s polo manager looks ahead to the British season and would welcome a faster game with less umpiring interference.
Anthony Fanshawe, polo manager at Guards Polo Club, believes that the introduction of sin-binning in English polo this season needs careful handling, admitting that ‘umpiring by drone’ in the United States is a poor way of overseeing fouls in the sport.
Guards Polo Club has undergone some changes in the off-season, explained Fanshawe, with the No 1 ground re-sown and expected to be in “tip-top shape for the start of the season”.
Looking ahead to the season, Fanshawe reckons that the number of patrons could be down in number this year, and reasons that “good polo depends on the players”.
An improvement Fanshawe would like to see this year is “less whistle” and a “faster game”.
He said: “The most important thing this year is that the umpires don’t blow for what the players make of a foul: the players tapping the ball under each other’s horses and stopping the game. There is too much whistle and there should be less. The game should be played faster.”
As for the potential introduction of sin-binning, being studied at present by the Hurlingham Polo Association, Fanshawe added: “It’s fine. But it needs to be made very clear to the umpires and the players exactly what it is. What they are doing in America now seems to be what they are trying to roll out over here. Two minutes for the first offence, and five minutes for a second offence.”
Does he believe it will improve the comportment of players on the field, in terms of talking to umpires and dangerous play?
“No, I think it will be the same. I’d be surprised if many players get sin-binned. I think that if they do, the umpires will start to feel that they are losing control of the game on the field. But if the umpires see the new rules and interpret them differently to the players, then we will see players sin-binned.”
Fanshawe, who played high-goal in The Prince of Wales, The Queen’s Cup and The Gold Cup, added: “That’s the key argument with it: it’s how you use it. For me, it’s a really serious event if someone gets sin-binned. Who knows? The umpires might see it differently.”
Another issue in polo at present, also in use in the United States, with fouls overseen by drone replay, believes Fanshawe, is a fundamental mistake.
“The American system is not working. They can review the fouls, the game takes 2 hours, and the way they are reviewing it takes a different view from the umpire on the field, using slow-motion from drone footage to make a decision.”
“It would be a disaster if it was introduced into the English game,” Fanshawe said.
Fanshawe is steeped in horsemanship. His grandfather was an Olympic three-day eventer, winning bronze in the 1936 Berlin Games, his father a renowned Master of Foxhounds and older brother James, a Group One-winning trainer in Newmarket.
“It’s a completely different view from what the umpire has – it would be like judges from boxing doing things by television replay, not from ringside – and is the difference of 2D and 3D,” he added.
“You’d have to do it one way, or the other. You’d have to roll out a drone for every game. For me, you’ve got to go with the game as it is – which is an umpire on a horse on the field. I think that’s fundamental.”