Column by Henri de By
There are few people better at explaining the thinking behind the new rules in polo
than Martín Aguerre, one of the elite umpires from the Argentine Open. To hear him
out, we gathered with some twenty players from Polo Club Fortin Mulitas in the
Argentine village of 25 de Mayo, hometown of Aguerre. While the open windows of
the clubhouse let in the afternoon heat, the umpire got the attention of those
present: “You will all have to change your attitude. Also, all of you in low-goal. You
will need to change your chip!”
More than just introducing new rules, the Argentine Association for Polo
(AAP) has set out to reinvigorate the game. No less. A mission that the HPA has
joined by already adopting the no-blocking rule and the hit-in after the ball goes out
over the boards for 2018. “The aim is a more open, faster, flowing polo. At all levels.
More spectacle,” Aguerre said. “We umpires will look at the game differently. Before
deciding whether to blow the whistle we’ll ask ourselves: Is that a negative or
positive play? The idea is that no match will be won by making plays only to force
fouls and get penalties. That is negative play. If there is no danger, there is no foul.
He gives the example of someone with the ball going straight to the boards.
“Under the old interpretation, that player, if he had an opponent marking him on his
left and another coming behind, could never turn right. He would commit a foul by
crossing the line. However, if everyone has slowed down there is no danger. So,
there is no use pushing into him from behind to get a foul. That’s a negative play.
While, if he turns right with the ball there is no danger and it keeps the game going.
That is a positive play and we should not blow that. ”
Last season, top English umpires such as Peter Wright, Jason Dixon, and Tim
Bown, told me they already successfully started to let the game flow as much as
possible. “It will take getting used to but if we all change our chip it will improve
polo,” said Aguerre, who the next day was leaving for Thailand. As an umpire he is
much sought after. Add to that: as a disciple spreading the Gospel of the New Polo.