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Polo Union

A response to the situation facing polo today

February 24, 2017
February 24, 2017
By Juan Pablo Alessandrini

Polo cannot escape reality, and accordingly, it is immersed in the crisis that is taking over the world. Its audience is not growing, its diffusion is declining, clubs have less resources, or just disappear altogether, events are losing their appeal and brands are distancing themselves from the sport. 

The international polo scene does not differ much from what was just described. Countries are transforming and borders are becoming more challenging to cross. In response to this, a group of people willing to speak and work for the sport came together in Argentina to form a new initiative. 

PoloLine met with Carlos Menéndez Behety and Delfín Uranga, who together with an influential group of polo supporters are forming a professional Union in order to voice ideas about what should be done in the current situation.

How did the Polo Union come about?

CMB: It was born when several important polo groups - clubs, amateurs, professional players, breeders and directors - came together and agreed that we wanted a change. 

Can you tell us about the idea behind the Polo Union?

DU: The Union is made up of many diverse figures, and our aim is to form the best team there has ever been within the AAP. In order for that to happen we have to be open-minded and generous. To have the best team we need everybody to get involved. The name we have chosen is not a coincidence.

CMB: The change needs to come from within the institution. That is why our action plan centres on inclusion. That is the key to achieving this fascinating and complex transformation.

What is the plan?

DU: First of all, we need to position the AAP as governing body of the best polo in the world. We have to encourage and promote the diffusion of this incredible sport around the world. We have come up with a series of ideas and events which aim to highlight the sport here and abroad; many of the best players in the world have already agreed to support us. There has to be space for everyone. We need to federalise polo once again, encouraging openness and diversity. The clubs should drive polo; we are going to really focus on provincial clubs, as they are the breeding ground for talented players and they play a key role in instilling values. Clubs can play a fundamental role in the growth of the sport. 

CMB: We are going to promote a national and international calendar with the help of a diverse work group - by this I mean that we are aiming to multiply the work we do with institutions such as the FIP, the AACCP, and the miniseries of the state. It is crucial that we strengthen the values of the sport on an international level. There must be a discipline manual, the rules need to be updates, and clear guidelines need to be established. Therefore, we suggest that an autonomous discipline tribunal be put in place. Transparency is key, so we want there to be autonomous subcommittees. We want polo to encourage team values and respect - for umpires, players and spectators alike. The sport should be used as a tool to teach important values. We want to encourage the revival of the 'seventh chukka,' where people enjoy each others company after the games. And crucially, bring back the camaraderie on which polo was formed. Why has rugby been able to maintain that, while polo has not? 

DU: I think that one of the things we need to focus on is growing the interest in the sport. We have to work hard in order to double the number of registered players in five years. Another project we are working on is the development of a "Horse and Polo University." This would be a place for players to train, for umpires to learn, for everyone to get to know the rules, and a place where sponsors are also included. We are therefore also looking to improve the training schools around the country. 

CMB: I have worked in marketing my whole life, that is why I believe that much more has to be done to increase diffusion, through reaching the press more and using social media. In order for this to happen we have to improve the spectacle. We have to use technology in every aspect of the sport to increase game performance. How do we improve the spectacle? With an updated rulebook which grows with the sport and therefore makes the game more attractive for the spectator, caring for the physical integrity of the players and the horses, and keeping up with the times. Polo needs to be exciting again, and for that to happen change is inevitable. We must lose the fear we have of changing. We need to change!

Can you tell us about the structure of the Union?

DU: The Union is rooted in professionalising three big roles: fundamental, operative and strategic. We need to gather the best group of workers possible, and get to work now, because there is a lot to do. We need to include other institutions and the State in our plans and work to grow polo in Argentina and abroad. 

How do you plan to carry this out?

CMB: Almost every modern sport has undergone, or is undergoing, a transformation similar to the one we are facing in polo. That is why we are trying to learn from them; we have studied the most prevalent cases around the world and are looking to learn and apply what we can to our sport. We think that we need to urgently form a work calendar with the greatest number of local and international media in order to spread the word, attract people and sponsors. We need to give the spectacle the place it deserves and think about the sport with the spectator in mind. Polo, being the sport and industry it is today, needs to professionalise its management and promote the growth of the sport and the industries that support it. For this to happen, we must have a comprehensive business plan which helps everybody. But first we need to widen the base of the pyramid, as I mentioned before. 

DU: We want to help polo reach its maximum potential, where everyone’s interests come together to make the sport bigger on a global level. We want everyone to benefit: players, workers, breeders, media, brands, sponsors, countries. We know it’s not an easy job but we are convinced that it is not impossible. 

Polo changed us; now its time to change polo!

Polo Union members:
- Braun, Armando
- Cambiaso, Adolfito
- Castignani, Carlos Alberto
- Cavanagh, José
- Cúneo Libarona, Rafael
- Delger, Gonzalo
- Heguy, Eduardo
- Menendez Behety, Carlos
- Novillo Astrada, Eduardo (h)
- Pieres, Facundo
- Pistone, Sebastián
- Uranga, Delfín
- Virasoro, Federico
- Yofre, José Luis