Polo was devised approximately 2,500 years ago in the Persian region, as a means of training mounted cavalry and keeping them fit. It was not designed as a spectator sport.
Over the millennium the sport spread across the Middle East and Asia (including China where it flourished during the Tang Dynasty), as well as India, from where the English tea-planters imported it to Europe.
During its long and celebrated history, many variations developed, including ones that employed the services of other ungulates such as Yak, Camel and even Elephant. Later still developed versions which abandoned the beast altogether in favour of transport modes such as bicycles and even Segways.
Today the most widespread code of polo comprises of the Hurlingham Rules variation, which, at the apex, is administered by the Federation of International Polo. Other popular variations include Beach Polo, Snow Polo and Arena Polo.
Urban Polo is a variant of polo first developed in Australia in 2005, with the intention of bringing the sport into the twentieth century and making it more spectator friendly. Most popular contemporary sports have undergone substantial changes to make them more appealing to spectators, ranging from improvements in tennis racquets to increase speed of the game, to redesigning soccer balls in order to give them greater flight and curving ability. These changes have been accompanied by a plethora of rule changes, resulting in many technical rules being abandoned in favour of a faster and more exciting spectacle.
Urban Polo has followed this tradition of sporting innovation by developing a variation of polo which is both as exciting to watch as it is to play. It’s defining features include a significantly smaller field (approximately 140m rather than 300m long), which brings the game closer to the spectators, and improves player reflexes as the smaller field means they are usually closely marked by the opponent.
To account for the smaller field, and maximise spectator safety, the ball has been increased by approximately 10%, and made of a lighter, but solid, plastic composite. This ball poses minimum risk compared to a hard traditional ball and flies a shorter distance, yet maintains a true trajectory, while allowing for an experienced Urban Polo player to curve the ball.
Urban Polo rules, which reflect the unique conditions generated by the new format, have also been codified, and they largely focus on safety to players and horses, rather than technical fouls. In aggregate, the unique Urban Polo format and rules improve the overall spectacle of the sport, with the media comparing the sport to the ‘Twenty20’ of polo.
Urban Polo is now widespread across Australia, with a total of seven events staged annually, under the auspices of ‘Polo by the Sea’ and ‘Polo in the City’, the latter of which enters its tenth year in 2015, and is the world’s largest national polo series of any kind.
*Urban Polo is administered by the Urban Polo Association Limited. For more information, please email email@example.com