A veteran polo player and construction magnate from the Caribbean is giving British polo a major boost by backing a home-grown squad, led by England captain and H&H columnist Luke Tomlinson, to play high-goal next season.
Sir Charles “Cow” Williams, 73, a former four-goaler, will be the non-playing patron of his team, Apes Hill Club Barbados. Sir Charles and an American colleague are funding the team to the tune of more than $1million, to promote their new holiday home complex. The sponsorship is the biggest in British polo to date.
“I was watching this year’s Gold Cup final at Cowdray and was so disappointed to see English talent sitting in the stands. I knew then that something should be done,” said Sir Charles, who played in England in the 1970s and 1980s and still plays at home.
The team also fields Mark Tomlinson, who joined his brother on seven goals recently; five-goal Tom Morley, who made his senior England debut in August, and three-goal Ed Hitchman, best young player of 2005. Luke and Mark were among just a handful of British pros employed by a high-goal patron for the full 2006 season.
Apes Hill will play England’s two most important tournaments, the Queen’s and Gold Cups, and its players will be paid the market rate. The team, which has yet to settle on a coach, will be based at Beaufort Polo Club.
“We’re proud to be part of Sir Charles’s plan,” said Luke Tomlinson. “We hope the support, training and attention our team will receive will be a benchmark for other corporate sponsors entering the sport.”
David Woodd, chief executive of the Hurlingham Polo Association, said: “This is tremendous news. It’s tough to get on a high-goal team, but particularly for British players.”
- This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (9 November, ’06)