PETER HIGGINS: “WE ARE EXPECTING THE STANDARD OF THE HORSES TO BE AMONG THE BEST”
January 4, 2017
Peter Higgins, Chairman and Owner of the Sydney Polo Club and CEO of the World Polo Championship, spoke exclusively with H10 about the XI FIP World Polo Championship, due to take place in Australia in October 2017.
On how the idea to host the World Polo Championship came about, his team, and the support from the Government
“I was invited by Nicholas Colquhoun Denvers, President of the FIP, to consider putting in a bid on the Championship. This invitation was received in April 2015. It was very easy to consider, because the World Championship is something that has been on my mind for some thirteen years as something that I would like to bid for. I was first inspired thinking about the prospects of hosting the WPC when I saw the games being played in Melbourne in 2001. At that time I developed a relationship with Ambassador Glenn Holden and Marcos Uranga, and registered my interest regarding the possibility, so I was very flattered to receive the invitation from the Chairman of FIP.”
“We have the advantage of having prepared for this event for years. We have proven in the past that Australia is a generous nation, one that can provide top class polo ponies. As Australians, it is very important for us to show our wonderful horses. We are expecting the standard of the horses to be among the best, if not the best that the WPC has seen. In addition to that we have hired an management team with international sports administrators and event managers who are working on this project day in and day out to produce the most spectacular and most enjoyable polo event that the WPC has ever seen. I have a team of around 20 people working on the ground in a number of different areas. There are different projects that we need to attend to, the obvious one being procuring horses. We have a wonderful team led by Anto White, Pat McGinley, Jim Gilmore and Fiona Turney working together to secure 280 horses that are coming in from various parts of the country. Australia is very large, and there will be a lot of transportation involved, so procuring horses is not a small job. The second aspect is taking care of logistics; event management would be the third; sponsorship is the fourth; working with our stakeholders, and various other tasks, including marketing to get spectators here. It is a major task requiring people with the highest skills in various departments, and I am very pleased to say that an event of this calibre has had no problems in collecting the best team to join us.”
“Destination NSW is the state government and tourism board in one entity; they have assisted us to put the bid together, a very important component in winning the bid. The pitch included glossy brochures as well as videos in English and Spanish, and some of the highlights that people can expect when they actually arrive here. We are very fortunate to have the support of the government, because they run so many major sports events here (such as tennis, swimming, netball, cricket, basketball), and they are very excited about adding polo to this suite of events.”
On Sydney Polo Club and the activities that people can enjoy outside of polo
“Sydney Polo Club is a very sophisticated polo club, located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, on the magnificent Hawkesbury river. One can go kayaking and canoeing on the rivers, and take advantage of water sports on the 60-acre lagoon, which also has 147 bird varieties that can be appreciated. The polo fields are absolutely magnificent; they are regarded as the best polo fields in Australia. The facilities and infrastructure for horses are second to none, and in the building of the clubs over 12.500 trees have been planted. We are able to cater to all countries and their various needs, because the location is so close to the Sydney city and yet we are in the countryside, so it is a great opportunity to blend both city and country together.”
“Most polo people are very energetic and adventurous and they like to have a lot of fun and be connected to horses. There are many opportunities to visit the biggest and best horse studs in Australia, as well as participating in local polo in the Hawkesbury basin. Many spectators are looking forward to watching the best players come to their district and I’m sure there will be a lot of opportunities for players to stay on and participate in the wonderful polo that goes on every day in the Hawkesbury basin. The club is very close to the city, where you can go sailing and motor boating. One can also enjoy the beautiful beaches, the nightlife and entertainment. The restaurants in Sydney are some of the most sophisticated in the world. The close proximity to the beautiful Blue Mountains gives visitors the opportunity to explore and go on adventures. In addition to that, the Hunter Valley is near, and there are lots of vineyards that produce some of the best wine in the country.”
What will a typical day be like for the teams?
“Each one of the teams is going to receive benefits unlike anything they have experienced. Being here in the Sydney Polo Club for the WPC is an honour worth celebrating. We are going to make sure that the experience for each team is extremely memorable, and authentically Australian. For example, one evening we will take each of the teams to a family home, where we will be host a traditional Australian barbecue. Another evening we may visit the Embassy home, where they will be looked after and recognised for their achievements of representing their country in such an esteemed tournament. Another night may feature a cruise around Sydney Harbour. There are also activities such as visiting the best vineyards and horse studs in the country. There will also be night time entertainment, but most of all, the teams will be able to play on some fantastic Australian polo ponies and on some of the most best fields in the country.”
What would you say to anyone looking to get involved in the organisation?
“We have a fantastic team already on the WPC committee, however, I would say that we still have people coming to us with ideas that we are open to receiving. Just recently we had someone saying that they are looking to find sponsors and create publicity in their country, and we said that we are very happy to have them involved in our committee. The opportunity to bring some of the best sponsors into the sport for the first or even the tenth time still exists. We are looking for people that can help us make this event the best and most memorable so far, so to that extent, I would say that we are still recruiting!”