Polo patron Nick Clarke, whose high goal team has its home at Milland, fears new Home Office immigration rules could lead him to base his team abroad.
Mr Clarke’s Salkeld team of world class players is a familiar feature during the English summer polo season but he is considering taking it to Spain.
He told the Observer: “I was there last year, they make it really easy to play. There is great weather, great polo fields and I will consider moving there if this government makes it too difficult to be in England.”
He echoed fears voiced by polo’s top administrator David Woodds, last week, who said the new rules amounted to the biggest crisis the sport had faced, adding they would have a devastating effect on the economy of the Midhurst area.
Mr Clarke said: “This would have a huge impact on Midhurst. Cowdray Park has been the home of English polo for the last 100 years - the Gold Cup is the British Open Championship. We are losing our ability to attract people and the government will put the final nail in the coffin with these regulations.”
The Home Office says it wants to bring polo, and the employment of players and grooms, in line with other sports such as football. Their employment in the UK must ‘make a significant contribution to the development of the sport at the highest level in the UK’. Grooms would only be able to come to Britain if they were part of an entourage or team and working with an overseas player.
”The crazy thing is that it’s okay for other people to come here with their grooms,” said Mr Clarke, “but as an Englishman trying to support a local team, I can’t bring people in. I can’t function having 15 ponies for a high goal polo team and no-one to look after them.”
“There has been a great polo community in Midhurst for a long time. It’s a wonderful thing for the economy of the area and now it is threatened.”
Mr Clarke’s Salkeld team is based at Great Trippetts in Milland the home of the Marquess of Milford Haven, a cousin of the queen.
He lives on Blackdown, near Fernhurst.
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