UK polo’s on the rise with the number of clubs more than doubling over the past two decades.
According to polo’s governing body, the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA), the number of affiliated polo clubs has risen from 32 in 2005, to 70 this year.
The HPA’s deputy chief executive, Oliver Hughes, partly attributes the increase to it being easier than ever to form a club.
“Twenty years ago, the stewards of the big clubs such as Guards, Cowdray Park and Cirencester opposed the formation of new clubs in their catchment areas. But a change of policy around 15 years ago meant new clubs were encouraged to form and affiliate to the HPA,” he said.
“Clubs are often now based around teaching facilities and there is also increased availability of ponies to hire, providing an opportunity for people to have lessons and try out the game before committing to buying ponies,” Mr Hughes added.
There is a greater geographical spread of clubs compared to 20 years ago, with more clubs opening outside the traditional south-east region.
There are now five clubs in Yorkshire, with four of these — Beverley, White Rose, Vale of York and Rowley Park — having opened within the past 13 years.
In the north-west, two clubs have joined Cheshire Polo Club since 2005 — Chester Racecourse, which hosts an annual international test match, and Peover.
The east of England has also seen a significant rise in the availability of polo, now boasting seven clubs.
“I’d love to say the number could double again by 2035 — perhaps it can,” said Mr Hughes.
“The number of players is gradually increasing. There is the occasional dip due to factors such as the recession, but actually the rise is quite steady.
“The polo season is pretty crammed already, so it is hard for new clubs to have high-goal aspirations, but there’s nothing wrong with that.”