Polo is to become more accessible to young players and their families with the launch of the Schools’ Alumni Polo Association (SAPA).
In order to play at the moment, polo players must join the UK’s governing body, the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) — £100 for full membership — plus the polo club of their choice.
Club membership can cost between £600 and £2,000.
Many riders who have played polo through the Schools and Universities Polo Association (SUPA) find the sport too expensive to carry on into adulthood.
But for a £100 membership fee, former SUPA members can take part in SAPA training and tournaments at a subsidised rate.
The association is the brainchild of SUPA chairman Charles Betz, Mike Hobday, head of SUPA Universities Polo, and Lucy Northmore, director of Polonetworks.
Charles Betz said: “SAPA has the potential to ensure alumni polo players can continue their enjoyment
of the game as well as generating public support for SUPA members.”
Members will be able to take part in up to eight alumni tournaments a year and play as many games as they wish.
Families will be able to play together without breaking the bank — parents who have had a handicap in the past are also eligible to become SAPA members alongside their SUPA alumni offspring.
Dr Katy Hayward played polo while studying at Nottingham University.
She said: “It is an interest that has stayed with me —
I have even been the doctor
on call at tournaments.
“I think SAPA is a fantastic chance to keep people in polo and bring them together to play and have fun.
“It allows people like me to keep their hand in and play here and there until we can join a club.”
Charlie Spicer played through his branch of the Pony Club. He said: “I love playing polo, but at this time in my life the cost is prohibitive. Joining SAPA will allow me to take it up again without a massive financial commitment.”
The move has been welcomed by the HPA, whose chief executive David Woodd said: “As long as members are restricted to playing SAPA polo we fully support this move.”
SAPA will also help SUPA to fund polo in schools and universities and promote it
as a curriculum sport.
Its founders plan to set up regional centres where training and tournaments would be held and local clubs will also be involved with coaching and pony hire.
The £100 annual subscription will include personal accident and public liability insurance as well as
The association will be officially launched at the inaugural SAPA Festival at the Heathfield polo grounds on 23-24 August.
But membership is available now and, if enough people join prior to the festival, earlier activities will be held.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (8 May, ’08)