Sanjay Jindal today is the proud owner of India’s only professional team La Pegasus Polo in the first ever professional league – X-treme Polo League – for the sport. The man who takes pride in putting India on the global map for professional polo finds it hard to speak about the sport in the country with the same degree of enthusiasm. He rather calls for a “complete overhaul of the whole system that is lacking in professionalism”.
Jindal has entered La Pegasus Polo, the only professional league for the sport, out of a sheer passion for the sport. He has no qualms in accepting the uncertainties involved in the venture in terms of investments and returns. Business at present is not the motive behind La Pegasus Polo’s entry in the X-treme Polo League.
Here are the excerpts:
InsideSport: What does it mean to be an Indian team, and being the only Indian team, in the first ever global professional league for Polo?
Sanjay Jindal: It is a proud moment for us. It is the first ever professional Polo league in the world and I am glad that La Pegasus will be the sole representation in terms of presence of India at the event. We have put together a very strong team with the Argentine Legend Mariano Aguerre leading the bunch of some superbly talented players. I believe this is just the beginning for us and we want to keep our spirits high for the future.
IS: Professional sports means a certain business model with assured ROIs. How long and how much investment a sport like polo can take to break even both form the league’s and your perspective?
SJ: I am really not aware about the investments and ROIs of the league as it is an independent body. For me it is a project of passion rather than a business or professional situation. Yes, Ideally I would like it to be a business model with an ROI. Being the first time, Polo is being played truly in a professional manner, therefore it is a little bit uncertain as to what the exact response or ROI will be.
SJ: Yes, it is primarily out of passion as I have stated in the earlier answer that Polo as a game is close to my heart. At the moment, business isn’t the main objective but if it turns into a stable business proponent I will be more than happy but the same will only be ascertained with time.
IS: Still, what kind of ROIs will you be looking for at this stage?
SJ: It’s uncertain but we are looking for the best ROIs that we can garner out of the league and the team.
IS:Do you think your initiative will help polo grow back home? And, How?
SJ: It is very uncertain because one is a professional polo league and in India professional polo isn’t played, it’s primarily traditional polo. It is primarily patron driven. Hence, it is correct to infer that there is no professionalism in Polo in India.
IS:Unlike other sports where talent is primarily limited to the players and support staff, polo requires a lot more than that. How easy or tough it is to play a league far away from India?
SJ: Right over here in the XPL it is very easy. We have a very good team and our excellent manager in Mr. Marcelo Araya who has been to India several times and has played in India and globally. Also with the help of the founder / CEO of The League Mr Juan Zavalia Paunero and Mr Eduardo Novillo Astrada, President of the Argentine Polo Association (AAP) and the AAP have guided us in putting together a very strong team. Winning and losing is a matter of situation on any given day but considering everything, it has been much simpler to play Polo overseas or to play in a league away from India, than in India.
IS: Inaugural edition of the XPL will be more of a soft launch before a full-fledged league comes up next year? Don’t you think a commercial venture should go full throttle right from inception?
SJ: I really don’t agree to that. Despite being a commercial venture it is a really new concept. Unlike other sports Polo has never ever been played professionally in the past except for a few teams within Argentina for the Argentine tournaments. Considering, it is the first of its kind initiative and despite it being all professional, it had to be played as a soft launch in Argentina where there will be maximum support and awareness for Polo. I believe it is the best place to try the concept.
IS:If you may answer, what kind of an investment – franchisee fee, players, operations and allied costs – will it take to be part of the XPL in Year One?
IS:ITC once best described the stature of three Indian sports stature a mass, elite and super elite when it would have brand Wills for cricket, Classic for golf and India Kings for Polo. Do you think Polo in India needs to reach out to that “Classic” and “Wills” masses for real professional success? Or, can it survive and grow commercially by continuing to be the sport of the Maharajas, limited to a certain class?
SJ: I am not in a position to comment on the situation of Polo in India as it is governed by the Indian Polo Association and supported by various patrons. I am not a smoker and therefore, I don’t really associate with the concept of Wills, Classic or India Kings. As I stated earlier, “Polo in India is primarily a patron driven sport and not professional”. Hence, I really don’t have a comment on the same.
IS:You have once said Polo needs more recognition in India. How will you define term “recognition”? How does that matter and how can that be achieved?
SJ: In my opinion recognition means acceptability, enthusiasm and awareness, of which Polo, has none in India. It matters a lot for commercial success and greater reach. It could be achieved with a more organised effort on part of all the stakeholders, the corporates and the sports authorities alike.
IS:A polo league was announced in Jaipur in 2016 and now Indian Polo Association has tied up for India Arena Polo League. Your take on the development?
SJ: Regarding the Jaipur 2016 league I am not adequately updated as I was not actively involved in Polo at that time.
Regarding the Indian Arena Polo League, there has been one five minute announcement at one game, where an Arena Polo ball was exchanged between IPA and the India Arena Polo League and nothing has appeared in the Press and other communication modes, so far. Hence, I still believe it remains a mystery.
IS:Broadcast and media support are paramount to the success and growth of the professional sport. Polo seems to be lacking in these areas?
SJ: Yes, Polo seems to be lacking in every area in India.
IS: In spite of all your passion of the sport, you seem to be extremely disappointed with the scenario at home. Why?
SJ: I am very happy to be working globally with Polo and ideally I would have liked to work in India as well. But clearly my humble efforts and endeavours were unappreciated and met with a lot of hostility and resistance from polo centres and so called polo media, alike.
Despite the efforts of bringing an official 22 Goal Argentine Polo Team, we faced a lot of hostility and aggression on the part of some polo clubs and administrators. I had even agreed to sponsor the scoreboard at the Jaipur Polo Ground and sign a three-year contract with IPA to sponsor the Northern India Open. That too, didn’t work out. As my closing comments, I would say that the whole system really needs an overhaul as the system is lacking in professionalism and a sport cannot grow if the base is disorganised.
The Jindal Drugs promoter and multi trade owner Sanjay Jindal also has a distinguished identity for his passion towards polo. Out of his sheer love for polo and a vision to rekindle the glorious history of the ‘King of Sports’ in the country, Jindal in April 2018 had founded Ess Jay Pegasus Sports Foundation, a non-profit sports charity, working to create awareness about and propagate the cause of polo and sports..