Eleventh hour talks save high goal polo in Midhurst
Eleventh hour agreement between the Home Office and top polo officials meant the planned High Court battle was cancelled.
The Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) was due to go to court to fight immigration proposals which it was feared could have a ‘devastating’ effect on the game and the economy of Midhurst, one of the biggest polo centres in the country.
In November Mr Woodd said he feared the new rules threatened not just polo teams but other businesses including vets, restaurants house and stable letting, hotels car firms and shops.
Under proposed criteria grooms would only have been be able to come to UK if they were part of an entourage or team and working with an overseas player.
But the Home Office has now agreed teams with sponsor licences who play high and medium goal polo may now apply for visas.
However chief executive of the Hurlingham Polo Association, the sports governing body, David Woodd said new criteria had only been reached after ‘lengthy and frustrating’ negotiations.
“They are significantly different and remain far from what the HPA considers to be appropriate for our sport,” he said.
“The final criteria do allow players to employ grooms direct but they do not allow a migrant player or a migrant groom to play or work in polo below medium goal.”
The Home Office is refusing to budge on low goal polo: “Their complete intransigence and apparent indifference to the welfare and other issues arising is a matter of great concern,” said Mr Woodd.
“The Home Office has maintained this position in spite of all the discussions, informal and formal, and letters setting out the impact on the polo that more than 2000 of our members play, on grassroots polo and local businesses and clubs. Bar those who only play high or medium goal, the Home Office stance will affect all players who rely on foreign grooms to prepare, train and maintain ponies during the season. It will also impact those who rely on renting horses to play and will give rise to welfare and health and safety issues.”
Oliver Hughes deputy director of the HPA told the Observer: “This is good news for high and medium goal polo at Midhurst, but not good for polo generally.
“It means, hopefully the Gold Cup and high goal polo are safe but the situation is not going to improve.”
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