Concerns raised following Daily Mail article
No doubt a large majority of our readers will have seen the recent articles from The Daily Mail regarding the future of our sport and the ongoing visa crisis.
Following the general election in December 2019 and the induction of new MPs, the new cabinet has been tussling for position and influence, with polo seemingly getting somewhat caught in the crossfire, causing great concern amongst our ranks.
On 29 December, The Daily Mail announced that Home Secretary Priti Patel had released plans to “ditch the polo industry visa deal” and “axe arrangements that allowed 500 polo players into Britain despite fear it was being exploited for illegal immigrants.”
Following what has been a challenging few years for the British polo industry, this apparent announcement has come as an alarming shock to many in the community. However, there is little to no evidence to substantiate the claim that the plans for polo visas have deviated at all from what was originally agreed between the Home Office and HPA. When the polo visa crisis originally came to light in 2017, the aim of the Home Office was to create more opportunities for British grooms in the polo sector, which was practical at low goal levels with fewer horses, but when it comes to high goal organisations, there are a lot more factors at play, with an exceedingly high level of skill required to safely manage large strings of ponies. This is where the apparent lack of specific polo training for British grooms has caused a disconnect, which only individuals from outside the EU with extensive training alleviate.
Three years on, there remains a distinct shortage of British grooms who possess the skills that are required at the top level to fill the gap posed by the refusal of entry of grooms from Argentina, Australia and further afield. The fallout since 2017 has been felt by everyone in British polo, across all levels but, despite alternative comments made in the tabloids, the plans for changes to visas for those players and grooms coming from outside the EU has not changed in recent months, with the HPA continuing to communicate with the Home Office to bring about a rectification to the current stalemate.