Polo – Rules, Field and Players


Today’s article is about the modernity of the sport, the rules and a highlight of what to watch for. Even as a spectator, one needs to have a feeling for the flow, as to be able to truly appreciate the feats achieved by great players.

Polo is a tenacious sport, for those who have a combination of strategist-skill and an eye for detail, while balancing nerves of steel within the physicality of a dancer.

The skill comes from being able to see the big picture while understanding where they need to place their prowess next in the sequence. It is a thrilling sport to be part of and to watch as a fan. We are excited about our upcoming polo event on Majorca on July 12.

Last week, we explained the origins of the polo sport http://goo.gl/OIp97. You will see the sport truly evolved since its early days of being a military training exercise. The sport is now being played professionally in 16 countries, and the World Polo Championship is held every three years by the Federation of International Polo. The most important tournaments of the world, in a clubs level, are Abierto de Tortugas, Abierto de Hurlingham and Abierto Argentino de Polo, all of them take place in Argentina.
The most professional players of the game are in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Iran, India, New Zealand, Mexico, Pakistan, Jamaica, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Today’s article is about the modernity of the sport, the rules and a highlight of what to watch for. Even as a spectator, one needs to have a feeling for the flow, as to be able to truly appreciate the feats achieved by great players.

The Fundamentals – Rules, Field and Players
A game has four chukkas, each of which lasts 7.5 minutes. It is the ‘actual time’ of play that counts. The safety of the pony is the most important aspect. For example, if a pony’s bandage unravels during play, the game will stop until the bandage is fixed again. However, play is not stopped if a player suffers a harmless fall. To this end, most polo players have a number of ponies entered into the tournament. Four ponies is a professional number while some players can even enter six ponies. This ensures the ponies get enough rest and that they can be substituted when they need. While players are expected to play the full game without substitution, polo ponies may not be played in consecutive chukkas.

A polo field spans approximately seven times the size of a football field, although the exact size of a polo field may vary. Wicker goal posts which can collapse for safety reasons signify the 7.32 meter wide open top goals. The teams change sides after each goal, a rule which harks back to the hot and very bright sunny days when it was a considerable disadvantage to play against the sun. The rule also ensures that the turf at the goalmouth of the weaker team does not get permanently damaged in one-sided matches where one team is dominating the game.

Each person in the team has a specific responsibility:

Number One is the most offence-oriented position on the field. The Number One position generally covers the opposing team’s Number Four.

Number Two has an important role in offence, either running through and scoring themselves, or passing to the Number One and getting in behind them. Defensively, they will cover the opposing team’s Number Three, generally the other team’s best player. Given the difficulty of this position, it is not uncommon for the best player on the team to play Number Two so long as another strong player is available to play Three.

Number Three is the tactical leader and must be a long powerful hitter to feed balls to Number Two and Number One as well as maintaining a solid defense. Often, the most talented player on the team is usually the Number Three.

Number Four is the primary defense player. They can move anywhere on the field, but they usually try to prevent scoring. The emphasis on defense by the Number Four allows the Number Three to attempt more offensive plays, since they know that they will be covered if they lose the ball.

Plays in Polo:
Strategic plays in polo are based on the ‘line of the ball’, an imaginary line created by the ball as it travels down the field. This line traces the ball’s path and extends past the ball along that trajectory. The ‘line of the ball’ changes each time the ball changes direction. The player who hit the ball generally has the right of way, and other players cannot cross the line of the ball in front of that player. As players approach the ball, they ride on either side of the line of the ball giving each player access to the ball. A player can cross the line of the ball when it does not create a dangerous situation. Most fouls and penalty shots are related to players improperly crossing the line of the ball. When a player has the line of the ball on his right, he has the right of way.

Defending Plays:
The defending player has a variety of opportunities their team to gain possession of the ball. They can push the opponent off the line or steal the ball from the opponent. Another common defensive play is called ‘hooking’. This means a player is taking a swing at the ball. The opponent can block the swing by using their mallet. They have to hook the mallet of the player swinging at the ball. Or another defensive play is called the ‘bump’ or ‘ride-off’, where a player rides their pony alongside an opponent’s mount in order to move an opponent away from the ball or to take him out of a play. This must be done perfectly so it doesn’t endanger the ponies or the players.

A polo handicap is a system like golf.  It was created by Henry Lloyd Herbert, first president of the United States Polo Association, at the founding of the USPA in 1890. The concept caught on in the colonies as well as in England and in India. It is not an estimate of the number of goals a player might score in a game, but rather of the player’s worth to their team. It is the overall rating of a player’s horsemanship, team play, knowledge of the game and strategy. Players are rated on a scale from -2 to +10 (-2 is assigned to a new player, while a player rated at +10 is a superstar).  There are less than 15 polo superstars in the world. The majority of players are rated at +2 or less. Currently, all +10 are Argentine, except of David Stirling who was born in Uruguay, although he plays in Argentina. The polo scene in Germany is still relatively small compared to the larger playing nations such as Argentina, Great Britain and the US. The best German players are ranked +4 to +5. Such a ranking is important for the setting up of polo teams as the handicaps of the four players are added up to derive the ‘team handicap’. Handicap tournaments range from ‘Low Goal’ to ‘High Goal’ with the relative restrictions and handicap limits.

Polo is a game for tacticians and technicians, and that is why we love it in our business too. It is all about covering an opponent while holding brilliant tactical oversight. In the end, it is about precision and courage. The traits of a polo player are also what we look for in our team at Engel & Völkers.
Next week, we will share information about the ponies and equipment in our final part of the series.

If you wish more information please contact us: socialmedia@engelvoelkers.com  



The Engel & Völkers Polo Cup - get information here: www.engelvoelkers.com/polocup

Posted in Polo School.