Clare Milford Haven is one of the most well-known faces in British polo. However, she joined the sport as an adult, after her husband George invited her. “He encouraged me to have a go when we were on a polo tour in Ghana. I was hooked right from the start. I had never even thought of playing as I had never had the opportunity but it has changed my life. I played my first competitive game at Cowdray Park in 1999."
-Who was your main teacher on the field?
"My biggest influence on the field is Bauti Sorzana. We have been playing polo together for 17 years since 2001 in a 6 goal tournament at Cowdray. We have won (and lost!) many tournaments and had a lot of fun together. He is a true professional and one of my closest friends."
-Which player do you admire most for your game or your attitude?
"I admire Nina Clarkin enormously as she remains the finest female polo player in the world, at the moment. She is a great teammate, always boosting your confidence and raising your game. She is also incredibly modest and low key."
-What are your goals for 2018 as player and patron?
“It is a very busy year for me generally so for the first half of the season my focus is on playing just for fun at Trippetts but I am planning to play competitively from June."
"I think increased sponsorship in ladies’ polo"
-What is your assessment of women's polo in the UK and in the world?
"I played in one of the first women’s polo tournaments at Cowdray nearly 20 years ago and back then we had to have one man on the team to make the game more interesting! It’s fantastic to see how many all-female tournaments there are both in the UK and around the world and how the standard of play has improved so dramatically. I think having separate handicaps for all women’s polo is also a good idea as it provides a fair rating of skill."
-What do you think is required for female polo to improve its presence and quantity of players?
"I think increased sponsorship in ladies’ polo. Obviously if there was an increase in female patrons willing to fund all-female teams, that will be a huge help to the players."
- How does polo help you to withstand life's challenges?
"Polo provided a very necessary distraction in my life during some difficult times. After my son James died in 2006, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would continue to play but with the help and support of Jaeger-LeCoultre, I decided to get back. To have a few hours when you are completely focused on your game has been the best therapy and has helped me enormously. James was very passionate about polo and popular at Cowdray. We decided to name a cup in his memory, affiliated to The Trippetts Challenge, as this was something very special for our family and his friends."
"For most people, the cost of playing is prohibitive"
-Do you think that polo can become more popular in the UK? What would it take to achieve that?
"I think that polo’s popularity has grown in the more commercial events in the UK such as Polo in the Park which is located in London and attracts sponsors and more of a social crowd who have little interest in the sport! However for polo to become more widely accessible, it would have to be a lot cheaper to play. For most people, the cost of playing is prohibitive. We need to be realistic about this, so it will always remain an elitist sport because of its price tag."
-What would polo have to do to get more companies come to support it, not only in high handicap but medium and low goal?
"I think we need to think hard about the type of partnerships and sponsors that want to get involved in polo. Polo attracts a certain demographic and therefore the brands associated with polo have to appeal to that part of society. Obviously it is very important that we continue to introduce new companies into the sport but I believe that it is equally important to introduce more high-net-worth individuals who can afford to run their own teams and continue to oil the wheels of the polo industry. In my case, I have been a Brand Ambassador for Jaeger-LeCoultre for the past 14 years and have represented them on and off the field, continuing to be a loyal supporter of this famous watch brand."