In the middle of the busy Argentine Triple Crown, the firsts news regarding the upcoming 2017 season in UK have started to go round. After some compliance visits carried out by the UKVI (UK Visa Immigration), the Home Office has detected irregularities in the activity of different people related to polo, that have been working in the UK under legal conditions.
During this last season, compliance officers from the Office for UK Visa and Immigration visited 15 sponsors. The HPA was aware of the visits and also that the Home Office is keen to reduce numbers going to the UK. After a visit by the hPA to the UKVI in Sheffield on 7 Oct they were informed that of those non-EEA nationals on the UK on visas, the approximate split was 90% grooms and 10% players and that they did not believe that all of those were either internationally established at the highest level or developing the sport at the highest level in the UK.
The Home Office said that this was borne out for grooms who by the compliance visits where non-EEA grooms were being used by ancillary businesses associated with polo rather than for the benefit of the game. They conducted 15 such visits this season and currently all those 15 licenses have been suspended. In addition the HPA has been suspended from issuing any endorsements until the new criteria have been agreed.
This will be hugely detrimental to the sport in England and for the English players as well. It raises many questions.
-Tier 2 (Sportsperson): For players and coaches who are internationally established at the highest level and whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of the sport at the highest level in the UK.
-Tier 5 (Temporary Worker-Creative and Sporting): For players and coaches who are internationally established at the highest level and/or whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of the sport at the highest level in the UK.
Both Tier 2 and Tier 5 endorsements are subject to the post not being able to be filled by a suitable settled worker (EEA national).
INTENDED HOME OFFICE CHANGES:
-Highest level: High and Medium-Goal polo.
-Sponsor: will only be available to teams playing at the highest level (as above).
-Polo players: 5 goals and above, playing in teams at the highest level (as above).
-Grooms: Grooms travelling with non-EEA players in teams playing at the highest level (as above).
CURRENT POSITION: THE HOME OFFICE HAVE STOPPED THE HPA FROM ENDORSING ANY APPLICATIONS UNTIL NEW CRITERIA ARE AGREED.
-HPA will consult the PPA (Players Association) and other employer bodies within the sport.
-HPA will take legal advice.
-The HPA understands that the intended changes are detrimental to the sport, to pony welfare, safety of players, and the national and local economy.
-English players will be disadvantaged here and overseas, and the production of English polo ponies will be severely reduced.
-The HPA will consolidate a robust challenge to these intended changes.