It has been a controversial start to the year for the game of polo with the Home Office introducing new immigration rules for grooms and players for the 2017 English Polo Season.
Restrictions on visas for both polo players and grooms were first announced by the Home Office in October of last Year.
The Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) quickly got involved as they felt the changes were detrimental to the sport. The HPA requested a Judical Review of the Home Office proposals and stated that the new visa laws would affect around 800 summer migrant grooms, vital for the survival of polo.
The Home Office reached a compromise with the HPA on 27th January 2017. The outcome was 500 grooms being permitted to work here on visas during the 2017 English Season. These will be eligible to work for either UK or EU players or for non-EEA 4 goal or above players, who are contracted to play in medium or high goal teams.
This means polo below 15 goals team aggregate will not have the benefit of Argentine grooms or players. Understandably, the bulk of HPA Members, who play more modest polo are furious.The Home Office’s cap of 500 visas was a blow to English polo and the HPA are seeking further legal advice.
If the number of low goal players are reduced, there will be no rising stars to enter the medium and high level. We wait to hear more news with our fingers crossed and hope it’s better news than of late.
At Cambridge County Polo we are lucky. With University and Club Members playing arena polo in the winter, we can offer year round employment to English Grooms, which most other clubs and players cannot. Also some of us can rely on Argentine players with EU passports to boost our teams, but with Brexit approaching, how long will this last?
How we ask, are other clubs coping?