In 2002, polo managers of the major polo clubs, along with the best players in the world, called into existence the first international polo player ranking, i.e. the World Polo Tour (WPT). “The system came up as the result of the urge, by players and clubs, to create a circuit that reflects the best polo in the world and who were the best players despite their handicap,” says Javier Herrera, director of WPT. “The aim is to set a difference between the top events in the world and the rest. Since there is no official polo circuit, it is very difficult for people to understand how the professional circuit works. Specially for sponsors or patrons that are new to the sport and will get easily confused with so many tournaments, events and exhibition that have nothing to do with the real polo.”
This year’s World Polo Tour comprises 54 tournaments around the world. Each player participating in one of these tournaments is automatically included in the ranking. The polo players are scored according to their success, here. Depending on the degree of difficulty, players receive their individual points for taking part as well as reaching the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. These points are added up at the end of each year, eventually forming the basis for the ranking of polo players.
The points are subject not only to the positioning of the player’s team, but also to the respective player’s handicap. “And the players get points when they first enter the ranking, for their handicap. So high goal players may have more points than the low goal if they win the same events,” states Herrera, adding: “Every year your points go down to half. So you start the year with half the points you had last year. But there is also the Annual Race that is for the players that sum more points each year.”
While polo players are included in the ranking automatically, tournaments have to apply to be part of the tour. Once a year, after the Argentine Open, the commission of polo players and managers meets to discuss these applications, as well as changes to the score system. The number of points players receive for a certain tournament is subject to several criterions like the quality of the fields, the number of teams, players, sponsors, coverage, etc. “But the main thing is that the organization is serious and that the event takes polo seriously,” points out Herrera.
The tournaments of the World Polo Tour are divided into a number of categories. The Grand Slams are the best tournaments of the best polo playing countries. In 2014 again, the Argentine Open in Argentina, the U.S. Open in the States, and the Gold Cup for the British Open in Great Britain are part of the three Grand Slam tournaments. The differences between the World Polo Tour Championship Cup and the World Polo Tour Cup are the level of polo (handicap), the level of players, how old the tournament is, how many teams are playing, how many people are attending, sponsors, coverage, if the tournament is televised, umpires, etc. All this is taken into consideration for the point system. The Challenge Cup is more like an entry level for new tournaments or tournaments under review. The Snow Cup tournaments are snow polo tournaments. The Amateur Polo Tour is a ranking only for patrons or non-professional players. Moreover, there is the Master Tour. This is a ranking for the teams that play two or more tournaments during the year. If a player takes part in tournaments of different categories, all points are added.
Every year, following the Argentine Open, the player with the most points is given the “Player of the Year” award. The award ceremony usually takes place at the Polo Players prom in Palermo, Buenos Aires. Also, each month, a professional and an amateur player are awarded the “Player of the Month” title.
The World Polo Tour develops continuously. “We are looking to integrate a new circuit of events that are not high goal polo but are at top locations and are well organized,” says Javier Herrera, offering an insight into the latest plans. “The idea of the WPT is to create more awareness of the sport of polo. And to have an official circuit and ranking of players to make it easy to follow for everybody. The next step will be to livestream all the games and to have a monthly show on TV.”
For more information on the World Polo Tour, plus the current ranking and WPT tournaments, refer to www.worldpolotour.com