Polo resumed behind closed doors on Monday with a number of rule changes.
Last week the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) announced plans for the sport to resume with the Prince of Wales tournament running as a “training tournament” at high-goal level. The tournament had been scheduled to begin on 12 June at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club, but this was pushed back to Monday (15 June), and will now run until 24 June. One game is taking place per day, with half the usual number of chukkas.
In a statement on 13 June a spokesman for the HPA said following “further consultation” with the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport and the HPA’s legal advisors, it was concluded it was appropriate to run polo “on a progressive basis” and subject to “some important changes”.
The statement added that polo can proceed as planned, at eight-goal level and above along with the Victrix Ludorum women’s tournament. Each team must include a minimum of three professional or aged 16 and over “elite pathway players” along with the team player/manager who is responsible for putting together and entering the team. The HPA will produce a list of elite pathway players, which will be kept under review as the season progresses. Below the eight-goal level and Victrix Ludorum, polo continues to be limited to three on three no contact, and non-competitive training – which remains under constant review.
The spokesman added a number of important rule changes have been introduced to ensure minimal contact between players, in addition to the procedures and compliance requirements the sport has already put in place to confirm with government guidelines.
“It is absolutely crucial that all clubs adhere strictly to these procedures which have been reviewed by the DCMS and that players and all other attendees support clubs in their management of these procedures,” said the spokesman.
“This adherence is the responsibility of every individual and on which the continuation of the sport is dependent. The HPA will shortly be introducing a mandatory education module as a one off, in line with that in racing which will take 30 minutes. It will also be in Spanish.”
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“It’s about supporting a whole community that is hugely reliant on the sport getting back in some shape or form;
Catherine Austen is one of just a handful of journalists working on site at Royal Ascot this week – here
To help achieve social distancing and eliminate face-to-face contact, the rule changes include teams will only change ends at the end of each chukka, the removal of line-ups, and players cannot make contact with another player while the ball is not in play. Other changes include umpires should bring their own face coverings, gloves and sanitising products and use their own equipment such as cards, whistles and pick up stick, while all balls must be disinfected with a suitable product before and during any polo session that involves either training marshals and/or goal judges.
HPA chairman Nick Wiles said: “It was vital the HPA could kickstart the 2020 season in some way as there are so many businesses and individuals whose livelihoods are completely dependent on polo.
“We will of course be closely monitoring these new rules and hope to expand them out to the lower handicapped tournaments as and when government guidelines allow.”
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