The threat of what can happen in England next season, and the changes suggested by the UKVI regarding a new way of hiring players and grooms, bring a number of striking, although not unexpected, issues forward.
If the suggestions made by the Home Office are put into action, two or three of them in particular, then English polo would suffer a noticeable fall in level of play.
Here are some of the suggestions made by the UKVI to the HPA:
– Hiring of non-European players: Players rated at 5-goals or more, only playing in teams of “;Maximum Level” (medium or high-goal).
– Grooms: Those travelling with players of non-European nationality, who play with “Maximum Level” teams and show according experience.
The suggested changes would affect grooms more than players; this is a scarce trade which is fundamental for the care of horses and everything polo related.
If we analyse the situation of registered players in each country we can conclude that low-goal polo, the polo which encourages the growth of the sport, where new patrons learn to play, is the area most affected. Most of the polo players in the world play at this level.
An investigation by PoloLine shows the countries that dominate polo and the number of players that take part at every level. The findings are overwhelming:
Over 577 players are registered with a handicap. It is worth clarifying that this does not include an endless number of amateur players who take part in the occasional chukka. If these were included, the number would increase dramatically. Of those with a handicap, only 100 players are rated at 5-goals or more – only 17%. This percentage decreases dramatically when we analyse another countries.
Players registered with handicap: 6456.
Players rated at 5-goals or more: 387.
Source: AAP website.
Players registered with handicap, men and women: 3399.
Players rated at 5-goals or more: 127.
Players registered with handicap: 558.
Players rated at 5-goals or more: 47.
Players registered with handicap: 888.
Players rated at 5-goals or more: 45.
Source: France Polo.
Players registered with handicap: 653.
Players rated at 5-goals or more: 26.
Source: Australian Polo.
Overall, if we add up all the registered players, regardless of the fact that many of them are registered in several of the countries listed here, we would find that a total of 5.8% of players belong to the polo elite: between 5-10 goals. The base of this sport thus resides in the low-goal, the 94.2% which is now under direct threat.