POLO+10 INTERVIEW WITH THE INCUMBENT FIP PRESIDENT NICHOLAS COLQUHOUN-DENVERS AND HIS DESIGNATED SUCCESSOR HORACIO ARECO, WHO WILL HEAD THE FEDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL POLO FROM DECEMBER 2018 ONWARDS.
TODAY THE FEDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL POLO HAS 86 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION MEMBERS. IS THIS NUMBER STILL GROWING?
Yes, FIP continues to grow and prosper year on year, in 2018 we added both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and there are several more in the pipeline. It is FIP’s mandate to promote the sport of polo worldwide and so this includes assisting new emerging polo nations to form National Associations.
A WORLDWIDE COMMON SET OF AGREED-UPON RULES HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MAIN TARGETS SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE FIP IN 1982. HOW FAR HAVE YOU COME WITH THIS?
We’ve come a long way. FIP has fostered and promoted on-going meetings between the Rules Committees of the AAP, HPA and USPA. As a result of these meetings currently there are almost no differences between the rules of AAP, HPA and USPA. FIP have also promoted a system whereby new rules are discussed prior to implementation between the three Associations and a trial method is approved before making any permanent changes. Once these changes are approved they are communicated to all our Members Associations in order to obtain feedback from them as well during their implementation in the FIP Tournaments.
WHAT WOULD YOU NAME THE BIGGEST SUCCESSES IN THE HISTORY AND WORK OF FIP DURING THE LAST 36 YEARS?
Certainly having organized 11 World Polo Championships, 12 European Championships, 2 Ladies European Championships and more than 100 Ambassadors Cup shows that FIP and their members have worked hard in promoting polo. Let’s not forget that we finally had polo as part of the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games for the first time since 1936 thanks to our work alongside the AAP and the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee.
AND WHAT ARE IN YOUR OPINION STILL THE MAJOR PROBLEMS YOU ARE CONFRONTED WITH?
We need to continue our work with the IOC to encourage the re-introduction of polo in future Olympic Games, work on new initiatives such as 3 on 3 polo to try to bring it closer to new audiences and also continue to promote polo and secure future editions of the tournaments we already have and establish new FIP Tournaments in areas of the world where international competition would benefit the sport.
TO “ENLARGE THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PLAYERS” IS ANOTHER MAJOR AIM OF FIP. WHAT ARE THE PARTICULAR PROJECTS WHICH RESULT FROM THIS INTENT?
FIP tournaments are handicapped in a way that most of our member countries can present a team. We have around 22 to 25 teams participating in the World Polo Championship Playoffs and have been having more teams on each passing edition of the European Championships. This year FIP organized the second edition of the Ladies European Championship and we hope to have in the near future the First Ladies World Polo Championship. FIP is also working to develop and promote polo in South East Asia and is currently working with the Philippines to have polo in next year’s South East Asian Games. Another important task is to assist and encourage our members to organize clinics for children, umpires and also communicate and promote issues such as player doping and horse welfare.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO IMPROVE THE UNDERSTANDING AND ENTHUSIASM FOR THE GAME AMONG NON-PLAYERS?
FIP works with the organizers of the tournaments to attract the non-polo audience. During the 2015 World Polo Championship in Chile more than 35.000 people attended the tournament and a similar figure was reached during last year’s WPC in Australia. FIP also is very active in social media having grown significantly the number of followers during the last years. The simplification of the rules that is being carried out with all polo associations is also a way to facilitate the understanding of the game for the non-player audience.
THE FIRST LADIES POLO ABIERTO 2017 WAS AN OVERWHELMING SUCCESS – DO YOU THINK THAT LADIES POLO STAYS UP AND COMING AND GETS FURTHER SUPPORT BY THE FIP IN THE FUTURE?
Ladies Polo is growing rapidly all over the world and we plan to continue organizing tournaments like the Ladies European Championship. We have formed a FIP Ladies International Polo Committee and will continue to work improve issues such as handicapping, level of play, etc. As we said we are aiming to organize the First Ladies World Polo Championship in the future.
HOW DID YOU LIKE THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP IN VILLA A SESTA?
Villa a Sesta was a wonderful host and thanks to the effort of FISE and the Tattoni family we could have 10 teams at the XII European Championship and 4 teams at the II Ladies European Championship all at the same time. This meant more than 300 horses stabled and 30 games played in 10 days!
WHY IS AZERBAIJAN PLAYING IN A EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP?
After gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, in 1992 Azerbaijan joined the United Nations and connected with other countries, mostly Europe. The EU-Azerbaijan Partnership and Co-operation Agreement was signed in 1996 formalizing the relationship between the country and the European Union. The country is an active member of the Council of Europe which it joined on January 25, 2001. In 2004, the country joined the European Neighborhood Policy which seeks to bring together the countries in the East and South of the European Union territory in Europe. The countries in the policy could be allowed to join the European Union in the future. Azerbaijani athletes participate in the European Athletics competitions. In 2015 Azerbaijan hosted the European Games with more than 6.000 European athletes competing in them. FIP included Azerbaijan in Zone C (Europe) as they wanted to participate in continental tournaments and are located halfway from other members in Zones D (South East Asia & Oceania) and Zone E (Africa, India & Pakistan).
WHY DID THE GERMAN LADY TEAM APPLY WITH AN UNDERESTIMATED HANDICAP TO THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP? STILL, IT SEEMS THEIR WIN WAS NOT AT ALL ACCEPTED BY THE OTHER PARTICIPATING NATIONS?
Germany’s team did not apply with an underestimated handicap for the Ladies European Championship. FIP modified, as it is entitled to do so, the handicap of a German player after the team was entered. The other participating nations received the appropriate explanations and there have been no complaints from any association with regards to the result of the Championship. As you may know, players do not have a universal handicap, and FIP has to intervene in certain situations when there are handicap issues. In the case of Ladies handicaps it is a situation that will take some time to standardize, as it happened with men’s handicaps, as very few associations have established ladies handicaps.
MR. COLQUHOUN-DENVERS, WHAT WAS YOUR MOST IMPRESSIVE EXPERIENCE DURING YOUR TIME AS FIP PRESIDENT? AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT SUCCESSES AND PROJECTS YOU COULD REALIZE?
I think that between my predecessor Dr Caleel and myself the introduction of a CEO and an efficient FIP Office based in Buenos Aires allowed us to make FIP much more professional and relevant to our membership. The introduction of a 5th Zone, dividing Zone D into two much more manageable administrative areas will hopefully help in the future to encourage more competition in Zone E which includes the African sub-continent where a lot of polo is played but they currently do not benefit from much international competition. The highlight has to be the two World Championships, one in Chile and one in Australia that I was privileged to preside over during my time in office. They were both extremely successful and credit must go to all those involved.
MR. ARECO, YOUR ARE THE DESIGNATED NEW PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL POLO. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AND HOPES FOR THE FUTURE OF FIP? ARE THERE ISSUES IN THE WORK OF FIP WHICH WILL BE CHANGED UNDER YOUR PRESIDENCY?
First of all, we will continue with the good work done. We will put lot of emphasis in enhancing ladies polo and as it was said, we will organize the first ladies world polo championship in the near future. We’ll also develop and promote youth and children tournaments among different countries. Being one of the goals from the very beginning of FIP’s existence jointly with the promotion and spreading of polo, we’ll continue to work with the Int. Olympic Committee in order to include the sport, in any possible manner and in any possible variation: regular polo, in the Olympic winter games through snow, indoor polo, in a 3 vs 3 format, etc. We will also work on the organization of regional polo championships replicating what we do in Europe in other FIP Zones like the South East Asia (Zone D), South America (Zone B), North America (Zone A) and the very extensive Zone E that comprises Africa and Middle East.