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Thu 30th May 2019

High Goal Handicaps

Young players ratings in question

With The Cartier Queen’s Cup going into its second week at Guards Polo Club, and the high goal season well underway following the culminations of The Prince of Wales Trophy and The Murus Sanctus Trippetts Challenge, concerns have been raised in the polo ranks regarding the handicaps of a number of young players.

At Guards Polo Club, following an injury to UAE Polo 0 goal patron HH Sheika Maitha, family friend, young 2 goal Lucas Monteverde Jnr, has been substituted in to her stead for the remainder of The Cartier Queen’s Cup, following a request from the Club. Whilst this can primarily be seen to give the team an unfair advantage due to the handicap difference, it also expressly goes against the HPA ruling regarding non-EEA players i.e. they have to be 4 goals or higher. This change has caused reverberations through the polo community, unsurprisingly from the high goal opponent teams, who have expressed their discontent and concern moving forward in the tournament, for not only the disparity in the handicaps and unfair advantage, but also under the guise that rules are rules – one rule should not apply to one team and not to others. Furthermore, the secondary argument has arisen that if Guards Polo Club and the HPA have allowed the UAE Polo Team to break the rules to enable the team to enter the tournament, arguably by changing the rule, ultimately more teams will be attracted to this prestigious tournament in the future? 
The conclusion remains to be seen, but we will update our readers as soon as any information comes to light. 
In relation to this change, the following letter was released by the HPA:
“Due to injury HH Sheika Maitha will be unable to play in The Queen’s Cup. HH considered various options in an attempt to enable the team to continue to take part which included getting someone to take on part of the team.
Sheika Maitha has close links with the Monteverde family and, if the above could not be achieved, the only way that HH was prepared to enter the UAE team in The Queen’s Cup was if Lucas Jnr could play in the team. HH queried whether Lucas Monteverde Jnr could play and was told that he should be eligible as he played here in 2018 and was on the 22 goal and VL list of players with the 2 goal handicap. However, the HPA rule for non-EEA players under 18 is the same as for all non-EEA players; i.e. they have to be 4 goals. 
Following a request from Guards Polo Club, it has been agreed that a one-off exception will be made to allow HH to invite Lucas Jnr to play in the UAE team as an u18 non-EEA player. 
The HPA would like to take this opportunity to remind players that, as the governing body, the HPA has a responsibility to ensure that: 
a. The immigration rules are adhered to; 
b. Players are fairly handicapped; 
As far as the immigration rules are concerned:
Those players who have brought in grooms or players must fulfil their tournament obligations and individual letters have been sent to all those concerned and:
Non-EEA U18 players (who are not eligible to get a visa) cannot play here for reward and consequently the patron of any team which includes such a player may be required to confirm in writing that there is no ‘reward’ involved and that they are here with a parent or guardian. See Annex C to Part 2 of HPA Rules 2019:
Non-EEA Players Under 18 on 31 September 2018 or in the UK on Full Time Education. A non-EEA person who enters the UK either as a dependent of a player here legitimately or as an individual on a Standard Visitor Visa http://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor-visa/if-youre-under-18 cannot be paid to play in the UK.  Please see para 6 of the Immigration Rules. Please note that if entering as an individual on a Standard Visitor Visa they may be denied entry if deemed to be a professional sportsperson by the Border Agency.  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-introduction.  Subject to the minimum handicap and abiding by the conditions of their visa: 
Any such non- EEA under 18 player may play in any level if they are 4 goals or above. They will be counted as a non-EEA player and if they wish to play 22 goal will need to obtain a 22 goal handicap. 
Any such non-EEA under 18 player who is less than 4 goals may play the 15 goal and below only and will not count as a non-EEA player.”
May we also use this letter to remind you that if you have brought in a player on a visa for the 15 or above, you may play with that player in the 8 and 12 goal VL tournaments, but you must be part of the team. 
It was hoped that there would have been sufficient clarity by now to start planning for post Brexit but unfortunately this is not the case. The Home Office has produced some guidance which is at https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families
As far as handicapping is concerned, the policy at the end of season meeting in 2018 was to push players up, in particular at the lower end, and Stewards have agreed that any player who is judged to be under handicapped, even if they were handicapped at the end of last season, should be raised either immediately or at the mid-season meeting. The HPA will not necessarily wait until the end of the season as has tended to be the case in previous years and nor will a raise in handicap be dependent on a view that they will go up a further goal at the end of the season.

Yours sincerely,

David Woodd
Chief Executive
Photograph: HH Sheika Maitha has been substituted by Lucas Monteverde Jnr following an injury, seen here playing on 26 May. By ©www.imagesofpolo.com

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