Meeting scheduled to take place on Friday 6 July
Polo Times received the following letter today from The Argentine Association of Polo Players, regarding a meeting due to take place on Friday 6 July at a TBC venue in Berkshire. The Polo Players Association has been invited to co-host the meeting (yet to confirm) with this invitation also extended to all UK polo clubs, the HPA, FIP, the Argentine Ambassador to the UK, Mr Carlos Sersale, and the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid. The aim of this meeting is to highlight, “For professional players of any nationality, that the growth of polo worldwide is in our best interest and so in order to find the best and most constructive solutions we want to invite everyone involved in British polo to be part of this series of discussions.” Please find the letter below:
“Thank you for your interest in reading this.
In 2016 the HPA had little over 2500 registered players in the UK. At the end of that year, the Home Office imposed a new criteria of endorsement to the HPA for migrant workers for polo. This criteria left every possibility out to apply for polo work permits unless migrant workers were involved with the high goal, 15 goal tournaments and above to be precise. Then in 2017, after dedicated efforts from the HPA to convince the Home Office on how fundamental migrant grooms were to play polo at any level, not only high goal that is, there was a sudden change as to the whole concept towards polo from the Home Office. Low goal polo was a thing. An important thing not to erase from the British Island. And so in April/May, there was a small quota implemented for migrant grooms for low goal polo and a strict set of criteria to employ them. Not good enough some may say, not soon enough others may say. But it happened and it was a critical change of concept indeed. Positive we could say. Low goal polo was a thing.
Since this last change in 2017, rules-wise everything tried to stay the same. The criteria for high goal and low goal polo was not altered in any kind of way.
Today the HPA has little over 1500 “valid” players listed on their website. This is 40% less players commited to playing the summer season 2018 than in 2016.
And so the question arises. Will polo player numbers continue to decrease in the UK? Probably, most say. Will we do something to try and change the direction of such a trend?
Obviously the so called “visa situation” is not the only thing affecting polo. The economy is also hitting it hard, world wide, and certain other aspects of the sport itself should also be approached in the right way at the right time. But it is a fact that something altered the world of British polo in 2016 and two years later things are not looking any better.
So what do we do? It is the Home Office that has been doing all this, we hear. Indeed the Home Office is the only body that can authorise a change. And this government body will only receive polo related requests from the HPA. So let’s help them. In order to do this the British Polo Community must first agree on what the collective thought is as to how things should be. How do we get out of a vicious circle that makes less and less polo and produce a virtuous cycle that develops polo once again in the UK? How? The next step would be to put it in black and white and put it forward to the HPA. Here is where clubs should voice themselves to the HPA as they are the true members of this association. Do we need a change of rules at a Home Office level? Yes? Yes. Let’s create a set of clear rules, as agreeable as possible in the eyes of the Home Office.
The April/May low goal grooms annex was proof that where there’s a will there’s a way. Let’s create will, let’s show will. And hopefully once again there will be a way and polo in the UK will flourish.
Developing the Future of Polo
Draft proposals for debate
These draft proposals have been formulated to :
To ensure the longevity of UK polo, whilst protecting the interests of UK/EEA polo professionals. In order to have a productive debate the participants are asked to accept that the non entry of overseas low goal professionals in to the UK in order to play polo is harming the development of polo in the UK as a whole.
1. Playing professionals of 2 goals and above and Certified Instructors to apply for
a ‘Low Goal Player’ work or commercial permit to operate with in the UK.
2. Players employed by UK playing polo organizations to play 15 goal
tournaments and above to be allowed to play 8, 10 and 12 goal tournaments in their
extra hours, respecting the current year HPA Tournament Conditions, as
long as it is for those UK playing polo organisations by whom they are employed.
3. Clubs or regions to be classified into three categories, namely:
(i) Category A – such classification afforded to clubs or regions where polo is flourishing and where there is considered to be an excess of polo professionals.
(ii) Category B – such classification to be afforded to clubs or regions where there is a sufficient number of polo professionals and there is no urgency for more
(iii) Category C – such classification to be afforded to clubs or regions where polo is considered to be in decline, where there is a lack of patrons and professionals
4. Clubs to be able to issue sponsorship licenses as needed.
5. Clubs to publish their requirements for professional players in good time before the start of the polo season and to take all reasonable steps to satisfy those requirements with UK/EEA nationals prior to making attempts to hire from overseas.
6. Clubs with a Certified Instructor be allowed to apply for a second instructor if demand is sufficient.
7. Clubs be able to employ a second higher handicap resident professional with no expenses paid but with the provision to keep their horses.
8. Establish an industry agreed and accepted, fair ratio of professional UK/EEA playing professionals to overseas playing professionals.
9. Establish a ratio of professionals to non-professionals in order to be satisfied that polo can flourish in the UK.
10. Allow overseas low goal players with work permits to play tournaments at their
Category C club and visit other category C clubs as long as they are playing with members of the club where such overseas low goal players are based.
11. Allow overseas Certified Instructors to play an instructional level of polo
(up to 0 or 2 goal tournament) to provide confidence to their student(s)
when making their first steps into the sport.
12. A general acceptance by the governing body and clubs that priority will be given to those people who have already invested time and effort in contributing to polo in the UK.