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  • Richard Le Poer, Chairman of the PPA

  • Richard Le Poer, Chairman of the PPA

  • Richard Le Poer, Chairman of the PPA

Richard Le Poer, Chairman of the PPA
Richard Le Poer, Chairman of the PPARichard Le Poer, Chairman of the PPA

Richard Le Poer, Chairman of the PPA

Objectives of the new challenge

April 24, 2017
April 24, 2017
Only one week away from the last open meeting of the PPA (Polo Players Association), before the start of the 2017 UK Polo Season, Richard Le Poer, Chairman of this Association, talks to Pololine about the new aspects of the PPA and the main goals for the years to come.

On PPA goals and objectives: "The focus of the PPA is to promote and develop the industry of polo in the UK, which we believe is a leisure industry; professionals caring for clients that want to enjoy the sport and the lifestyle. That’s what we believe in, we think there is huge potential growth within the sport and we want to work alongside the HPA as our governing body, they’re the association that make the rules and regulations. Communicating as the players, lobbying the HPA on what needs to be done within the UK. Our main aim is to be affiliated with the HPA, we are pushing for that.” 

On the difference between the HPA and the PPA: "The HPA is an affiliation of clubs and their members; PPA is the players. One of the issues within the polo structure in the UK is that they don’t have direct contact with the players; they only communicate with the clubs. We are the group of players that will communicate directly with the HPA. We will have our own agendas, our own funds to promote different areas of the sport.”

On the origins of the PPA: "The PPA was born August last year. The PPA was originally the professional players association. It never really got going because it focused too heavily on the agendas of the pros. We realized last year that the constitution needs to change in order to include everyone within polo.
We believe there are three groups:
-The Professionals: One of the rules is that the Chairman has to be a professional. We believe the pros have the best understanding and knowledge of the industry. 
-The Amateurs: A mix of amateur players and patrons.The most important group, 99% of funding within polo comes from patrons. We need to encourage them to develop and bring new people into the sport.
-The commercial group: Anyone that has a business interest within the sport. We need to bring in more commercial interest. I think polo needs to be commercialize more. This group will focus on that a lot. This is a big area that needs to be developed. More opportunities to the young people that want to be involved with the sport. Vets and grooms and everyone that has an interest within the sport is included. We are working alongside the BGA (British Grooms Association).”

On the focus of the PPA: "As a start, we are going to focus only on the UK; we believe as a group that polo is an international sport, and we want to encourage international players and people to visit the UK. Anyone from anywhere in the world can be a member. We want advice, experience, opinions from people outside the UK who have done it in their own countries to help us achieve it here.” 

On the UK Visa situation: "It is incredibly upsetting and sad the way the Home Office has treated foreign players in the last 12 months. Unfortunately, the government have an agenda with immigration that applies certain rules within professional sports in the UK. We as the PPA believe that polo in the UK is not a professional sport; is a leisure industry. You cannot put the leisure industry model to the professional sporting model in terms of immigration criteria, this is why the government have made some changes within polo that have not only affected the sport, because they have destroyed some foreign players businesses which is very sad. These guys have been coming to our country for many years, they have been adding huge value in terms of their skills, their experience, the development of patrons, also bringing foreign patrons into our country. We are going to lose all that now for UK polo.” 

On what the PPA is doing to help the situation: "One thing we have done and we are doing is collecting as a group of people documents of evidence that will support the argument that the rules the Home Office are implying will affect the long term future of the sport within the UK. We are putting all this together and we are going to hand it to the HPA for them to use in dealings with the Home Office. This will help hugely because, if you can provide an argument, there are more chances to change.”

On the evolution and changes of polo: "Polo has become a lot tougher in terms of the cost involved, it is more expensive for patrons, for pros, double what it was 20 years ago. The margin is very small in terms of playing. There are a small group of local players who have voiced their opinion and stated they would prefer foreign players to be more controlled. No one ever said that they don’t want any foreign players. However for the sport, we know we need to keep growing, we need foreign players here, competing against us, bringing their patrons, their horses, selling them here, we need that. We want to expand.” 

On the commercial aspects of polo: "When potential sponsors think of polo as a professional sport and not a leisure industry, it is an issue. This is why the sponsorship is poor outside the Argentine Open, really. The Argentine Open is different. I don’t think any team in Argentina really gets sponsored outside of the Open teams. For me that is the true professional tournament. It is very rare. For the sport to be commercialised the teams have to be made up completely of professionals. Otherwise, it is a leisure industry. I’m not saying polo is a hobby because the patrons and players  are very good players, trying very hard, spending a lot of money on their horses. Sponsors would prefer it as a sport if the teams are were pro.” 

On the ways to develop the sport: "There is a gap between the clubs and the Association that needs to be filled. In terms of the long term future, we want to set up  different funds within the sport, which, for example: Promote the development of young players, focus on training and support for umpires, and work on expanding the entry level into the sport, educating people on how to bring new people in. And all this through events, we will have the funds clearly set up on our website. where you can choose the way you want to act with these funds. I’m just referring to ideas, but these are the type of things we want to do. Another thing could be setting up a proper contractual system between teams and pros, supporting amateur players, providing guidance. We want to work on all areas.”

On the upcoming PPA calendar: "We have a meeting coming up on April 28 - this is our last open meeting. Anyone can come and learn about the PPA , the time and place hasn’t been announced yet. After this meeting only members will have access to our media feeds and our meetings.”

On the pro-patrons relationship: "I saw Gonzalo Pieres' interview on PoloLine which was very interesting, and his main point was that pros have lost the focus on building good relationships with their patrons, because if you have a good relationship with your patron you will enjoy it more as a player and the patron enjoys it more as a player as well, because you have a bond and that is what the sport is all about: camaraderie and teamship.” 

On the structure of polo in the UK: "Especially in the UK, one of our focuses is that we want to lobby the clubs and the HPA to push for changing the structure of scheduling, because, in my opinion, poor game fees killed the fun in the sport in the UK. The patrons only think about winning, they know that they can change teams and players too regularly which takes away the camaraderie, and in sport if you work hard you can get results in the long run, and the poor game systems have encouraged patrons to change teams too much, has also encouraged professionals to undercut each other too much, has also made it harder for professionals to make a decent business out of it because from one day to the next you don’t know what’s going to happen. There is no security.”

On the situation of the medium and low goal: "The high goal for me is OK, and it works really well. In the medium and low goal it’s crazy; it also affects the grooms because they sometimes work for weeks because they play any day of the week. In my opinion, polo should be set up, so Mondays are off days, Tuesdays you start getting the horses ready to play a practice on Wednesday, and then you play Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays. Maybe there could be a system where all the 18-goals are played on Thursdays and Saturdays; 15-goals on Fridays and Sundays, over a month or something like that. And so the patrons know exactly what they are going to pay to the pros for that month. The pros know how many horses they’ll need and will know exactly what they are earning. The patrons know exactly how much they are going to spend. The key is knowing what the season is going to cost you. It’s all about a patron being happy, the service they are getting, the enjoyment in the sport, self improvement as a player and then good value for money.”

On the clubs: "I think the clubs, these businesses where they bring new people into the sport, need more support. This will be one of the key funds the PPA will support and focus on - we think it’s crucial. I know it’s a numbers thing; the more people you have on horses the more chances to get them involved in the sport.”                
  
On how to contact the PPA: "There is a website under construction, but you can check it out and enter your details; we will send you a form, telling what you can do. As a member of the PPA you will be entitled to be in all our media feeds, to get information on what we are doing, what we are working on. Part of being a member is that you have the right to voice your opinion. We have an open form and this is ongoing, on whatsapp.”