Which Countries Play Polo, and Who Is the Best?


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Polo has traditionally been seen as a royal sport, an escape for the super-wealthy, but is now rapidly gaining new audiences thanks to investments from new-money enthusiasts and everyday folk who find it more accessible. 

Polo is played in almost every country in Europe, North America, and many South American countries, with interest growing in South East Asia’s wealthier parts, including Singapore and Taiwan. Polo, formerly the “sport of kings,” has spread far from its traditional English center to the hearts of people worldwide.

People played horse polo in Persia thousands of years before the U.S. was established, but in recent times, American polo clubs have influenced the sport’s growth in a plethora of ways.

The game has had to adapt to diverse cultures, landscapes, communities, and climates, and this has ushered in a new era for the sport.

Is Polo A World Sport?

picture of hands painted with a depict of a world map,
Image by stokpic of Pixabay

Modern polo has its origins in India; however, we cannot ignore Argentinian influence in today’s game. The U.S., parts of South America, and Europe are some of the well-established polo hubs that compete at the sport’s highest levels.

They have had years of investment into the sport, establishing the most prestigious polo clubs globally; however, the rest of the world is starting to catch up.

Fans of the sport start following a new polo season in England, starting in early May. It then moves on to France and Spain by August, then down to Argentina in September, and finally to Florida in the U.S. in January, where the season is wrapped up.

Bear in mind that other world regions are setting up their polo competitions funded by wealthy Asian and Middle-eastern patrons. 

In particular, Polo patrons in the UAE are investing millions in the sport each year, setting up polo clubs and attractive pay packets and other incentives to attract the best talent from Argentina, Europe, and other parts of the world. 

Elite Polo World Competitions

Argentina is the breeding ground for the most talented polo players in the world. It is also the home of great polo ponies that have gone on to dominate the sport.

However, in terms of playing at the best competitions, most of these players end up in Europe. In Europe, for instance, the May to July season involves the most prestigious tournaments, such as the English high-goal tournament.

This tournament includes the Cartier Queen’s Cup, played in Windsor at Guards Polo Club, and during this season, the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup is played in West Essex at Cowdray Park. 

There are a total of 22 high-goal competitions in English polo tournaments, and they have an average entry fee of £25,000 for each team. Every team is funded by patrons spending as much as $3 million to get a team ready to play in the English season.

Once the Gold Cup has ended, the players then move on from Europe, where in the past, they usually set up in Deauville, France, but in recent years this region has failed to keep up with competition coming in from other parts of the continent.

picture of a team playing polo on horseback,

Deauville is no longer the center of polo in Europe (or even in France), as most of the major players can be found near Paris in Chantilly and Sotogrande in Spain.

The prestigious Santa Maria Polo Club lures players and their horses with fabulous weather, top-of-the-world polo pitches, the best nightlife, competitive pay, and a promise to compete against the best in the game.

They have a 22-goal tournament that rivals the U.K. and a tournament final that’s played at the end of August and is considered the third most important in Europe. 

Who Sponsors Polo Teams?

Polo teams can be pricey to sponsor, and there’s, of course, the issue of low-reward in terms of ROI. For some sponsors and patrons, it’s the love of the sport that leads them to spend millions putting together a team to compete at the European Gold Cups. 

Even for the most prestigious tournaments, spectators rarely exceed a few thousand, making it somewhat unappealing to investors. However, to understand the motivation for sponsoring these events, one must consider the audience’s attendance. Most of these people are titans of their industries.

We’re talking about people who own investment funds, property empires, banks, shipping companies, film, media conglomerates, and so on. When you add to this list people like artists, film stars, famous athletes, models – there’s going to be some buzz at any of these major tournaments.

It is one reason sponsors choose to get involved in the sport: They want to reach a very exclusive audience.     

So who are some of the top brands that invest in polo?

  • Cartier 
  • Rolex
  • Jaeger Le-Coultre  
  • Porche
  • Piaget
  • BMW
  • Maserati
  • Audi
  • Coutts,

and many more.  

Which Are The Best Polo Teams In The World?

Polo can be said to have graced the world stage as a legitimate sporting competition due to the formation of the World Polo Championships, a competition of polo between countries managed by the Federation of International Polo (FIP).

Both men and women are quite capable of competing in the same tournament, which happens every three-to-four years. The present World Polo Championships is traced back to the Argentine Polo Association’s former president, Mr. Marcos Uranga.

He proposed the formation of an international competition in the early 1980s. After years of planning and organizing, the FIP was eventually set up in 1987, where the first games were played in Buenos Aires, at the Campo Argentino de Polo.

Today, the competition has seen 11 world tournaments, played all over the world. Here’s a list of 10 top-ranked teams:

  1. Argentina
  2. Brazil
  3. Chile
  4. U.S.
  5. England
  6. Mexico
  7. Australia
  8. Italy
  9. Spain
  10. France

As mentioned earlier, Argentina is the country with the highest talent pool, accounting for at least eight 10-goal players (the highest rating for a polo player in the world).

With a supply of wealthy patrons, horses, excellent topography, players who started riding horses before they learned to walk, there’s no shortage of talent or horses in this region. 

In Closing

Polo players in Europe don’t have the kind of culture that blends into the game the way that Argentinians do; however, the current growth of the sport in mainland Europe will lead to more money coming into polo.

And more money makes polo is more accessible to new players. England and the U.S. have a considerable influence over the game and will eventually compete with Argentina’s talent.

But for now, Argentina will continue dominating the sport for at least a few more years, sending the best polo players to far-off regions of the globe.  

FAQ

Is polo played in the U.S.?

Polo is played in over 50 countries globally, with the dominant nations based mainly in Europe and South America. Top countries include the U.K., U.S., Argentina, Spain, and France. 

Which country invented polo?

Polo was originally played in Persia, now known as modern Iran, from the 6th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. It started as a training game for cavalry units and elite military groups.   To read more about the origins of polo, check out this article: Where Did Horse Polo Originate? Plus 5 Notable Facts

Where is polo played in the U.S.?

The International Polo Club in Palm Beach, Florida, is one of the most prestigious polo clubs in the world. Other famous polo clubs in the U.S. are in Wellington, Fla., and California.    

Which country has the highest polo ground?

Shandur Top, located in Chitral, Pakistan, sits at 12,200ft and is the world’s highest polo ground. A polo tournament is organized every year between Chitral and Gilgit teams, where spectators come from all over the world to witness the match.

Why is polo also called the game of kings?

The game was first patronized by kings and other royalty and was played mainly by a prince and elite warriors to test their courage, power, and endurance. The sport is still associated with aristocracy and wealth, even to this day. 

Sources

  1. Featured image by Monica Volpin of Pixabay
  2. World Polo Championship, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Polo_Championship, Accessed 03/03/2021.
  3. The Origins And History of Polo, Historic-UK, https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Origins-of-Polo/, Accessed 03/03/2021.
  4. Federation of International Polo, Wikipedia, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federation_of_International_Polo, Accessed 03/03/2021.
  5. History of Polo, PoloMuseum, https://www.polomuseum.com/sport-polo/history-polo, Accessed 03/03/2021.      

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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