Image credit: Economical explorer
POLO IS BACK
With ample measures being taken regarding hygiene and safety of all, the grand sport gets into comeback mode.
Whenever mankind has been in difficulty, there has been a tendency to look back into the past, to find a way out from it. LA POLO looked at some crucial days in history that brought polo to a standstill. Like, World War II became an obstacle for the game. Nevertheless, polo was retrieved, and with a similar spirit, it’s going to happen again.
Even as the debate is still on as to how Polo can make a comeback in these testing times, from Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) to USPA, the associations and the clubs owners, team members, patrons, sponsors and everyone attached to the game, has offered to cordially take care of the basic hygiene essentials and safety of players, horses and all the stakeholders.
As the world is fighting the pandemic, the return of polo can be seen as the return of the old days. The Santa Barbara Polo Club witnessed the finals of the 12-goal Kopu Cup that had participation from six teams, on May 31, 2020. Newport Polo Club, Guards Polo Club, Chantilly Polo Club, Villa A Sesta Polo Club and USPA, among others, are all set to start off with revised schedules.
Dan Keating, Newport Club President and USPA delegate, said: “We started off by playing two V2 no-contact polo in groups of people that work and live together. Certainly not a great start, but it’s all about lowering the risk of transmission. We received some great guidance from the USPA which we implemented.”
USPA said: “...the suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.
“The USPA is pleased to share our progress as we work to make a positive impact on the polo community. The USPA COVID-19 Relief Package consists of four assistance programs: the Equine Welfare Relief Program, Distressed Club Relief Program, USPA Polo Tournament Stimulus Package and most recently the Polo Professional Equine Relief Program approved by the Board on Saturday, May 2. It is our sincere hope that you and your families stay healthy, positive and safe. Please do not hesitate to reach out to USPA staff and leadership at any time if you need any assistance.”
Talking about preventive measures, Keating told LA POLO: “Temperature checks and health screening increased our sizes of teams to 3 V3 no-contact. Our state is looking to increase the size of social groups to 15 when that happens. We will return to four versus four with two umpires. We are currently testing masks that are made for sports that allow breathing. When we approve the masks, we can go back to contact polo. Then we can start considering Tournament Polo.” He further added: “As far as the spectators are concerned, we’ve had to submit a plan that allows general admission but 10-feet apart.”
Chantilly Polo Club said: “Since May 11, France has started its first phase of deconfinement. The practice of sport, and more particularly of outdoor riding, has been authorised under certain conditions. This is why activity at the Chantilly Polo Club was able to resume at the Pony Club and on the fields for individual and group training, limited to ten people in compliance with the strict sanitary rules in force. A new point will be made by the government from June 2, but it has already announced the opening of the borders with Germany, Austria and Switzerland for June 15. All these elements together give us hope of the resumption of our tournaments from June 6 with European levels (6/8 goals and 0/4 goals).”
Further, conveying the message on hygiene and safety, Villa A Sesta Polo Club remarked in a report: “We have a lot of expectations about our season at Villa A Sesta, and we are adapting in the best way in order that people can enjoy polo while following hygiene and safety measures. We have made a strong investment in infrastructure which include standings for our new polo ground. The three fields are in excellent condition, the weather is great and everybody at the club is ready to enjoy the sport we all love so much. In addition, we will be launching a new merchandising collection, which will be available to purchase both through our websites and in the club during the whole year.”
In a recent discussion, the polo fraternity was seen debating over the issue of the changing pattern that might come out as a consequence of the pandemic outbreak. Siddhant Sharma, a +4 handicap polo player, said: “The virus isn’t going anywhere and we need to learn to live with it.”
Probably the future needs to be looked into with this perspective and we all need to come up with measures and ways of adapting to the new way of living.