The new British Polo Championship series gets off the ground this summer, giving British polo players a chance to play at high level with other professionals at home.
The series is being run by British Polo Enterprises (BPE), which is hoping that the new venture will provide a viable platform for English players to improve their game.
Derrick Chow, a BPE director explains: “Ultimately, we want this to be the event that every British player wants to play in the polo season over here.”
No restriction has been placed on nationality, and BPE hopes that the scheme will herald the dawn of a new era for the structure of polo in Britain, which is different to patron-based polo.
Chow continues: “We’ve been hindered by a feudalistic structure which is dependent on a few very rich patrons. We don’t want to jeopardise that in any way, but as many British players can no longer rely on patrons for their livelihood, we want to provide a playing structure that allows them to enhance their game while playing professionally.”
Jason Dixon, chairman of the British Association of Professional Polo Players agrees that the aim of the new venture is to “complement the existing, patron-based tournaments: it shouldn’t be one against the other.”
He adds: “It’s fantastic. The HPA has put money in and has helped a lot. It gives British players a chance to play among their peers. These matches are a way of upping players’ standards: if 10-12 days took place a year, 10 more players could get to seven goals.”
Four teams of five-goal players or higher will play for the title – as well as substantial prize money – with four-chukka semi-finals and finals at Coworth Park, Berkshire, on Friday 9 and Saturday 31 July respectively.
BPE has asked four English high-goalers to captain the teams: Henry Brett (8), Will Lucas (7), Roddy Williams (6) and Andrew Hine (7). Other players will be invited to join the teams at the end of April, and team handicaps will be at least 23 goals.
Several sponsors have been secured, including Argentine restaurant chain the Gaucho Grill and tea importer Williamson Tea.
Derrick Chow describes this year’s plans as a starting point for a brighter future.
“We want to encourage and promote the sport. We need to bring in a new audience to supplement the very loyal supporters we already have, and that is going to be a process of education as much as anything else,” he concludes