Polo in Great Britain: history and modern competitions

Polo is not only a traditional British sport, but is also considered the first ball game in the whole world. The elitism went from ancient times, when only a person of great wealth could afford a horse and equipment. It is not enough to be just rich to play polo, you need to have a proper pedigree and talent, only in this case you can qualify to join one of the teams. Polo is a game of aristocratic tradition, and at all times it has been played by members of the royal family. Some of them became successful players.

Winston Churchill, who was the grandson of the Duke of Marlborough, is often cited as an example. He showed high results and had a handicap of 6 out of 10. Nowadays it is possible to bet on polo at one of the bookmakers while in the UK, as well as choose one of the casinos not on gamstop for remote play. In this article we will touch upon the history of horse polo, tell you how to get into the sport, give the rules, mention the most prestigious tournaments of today, and summarise the results.


For the first time, a game similar to polo appeared in Persia in the V century BC. To be more precise, it was not a game, but a training for cavalrymen, who had to hit an object located at different distances from the ground with a rod. Such exercises were aimed at improving the mastery of edged weapons. Initially practiced alone, and then came the team competition.

A ball was invented, which was moved from one side of the field to the other, using primitive clubs. To get a position in the cavalry, it was necessary to achieve success in the game, which became an ancient prototype of polo. Later, a similar activity appeared in India (the rules were changed, the number of participants was reduced), and then in Constantinople.

In Europe, the game got thanks to the Crusaders, who brought it to France in the II century, but did not spread. It was only centuries later that British officers serving in India became passionate about the game. As a result, the first polo clubs appeared in England in the XIX century, which still exist today.    

The basic rules of the game

 In warm weather, a field 272 metres long and 182 metres wide with a low fence is used. In winter, the game is played in an indoor arena; the length of the pitch is 91 metres and the width is 45 metres. There are two teams, each with four riders. The aim of the game is to roll the ball into the opponent’s goal. The white ball used to be made of pressed bamboo, nowadays plastic balls are used more often, diameter 9 cm. Stick: no shorter than 1.2 metres, but no longer than 1.5 metres. Even if the player is left-handed, the stick can only be held in the right hand. If a goal is scored, the teams must switch sides so that the favourable goal position is levelled.

The riders in the teams have different roles: there is a defender, a midfielder and forwards. The game is played over 4 rounds of 7.5 minutes. It is allowed to change horses during this time.

The referees move around the field on horseback. If either team breaks the rules, penalty kicks are awarded. Each player is awarded a handicap. If you add up the scores of all players, you can estimate the overall level of the team. It is forbidden to cross a player’s line of movement, but it is possible to push or shift when close to him. There are many additional rules in polo, it is recommended to familiarise yourself with the full list. Qualities needed in polo:

  • A high level of riding ability;
  • concentration on the ball;
  • adherence to the rules;
  • correct execution of shots;
  • an understanding of teamwork.

How to get into polo

It’s not enough to come from an aristocratic background to play polo, you also need a proper upbringing. Young men go to one of the elite schools, such as Eton College. The boarding school is famous all over the world, it is one of the most conservative.

The history of the institution begins in the middle of the XV century and reaches up to our days. The institution was founded by order of King Henry IV. Boys here are prepared for admission to the University of Cambridge. At Eton they have to pass horse-riding standards and try to play polo, then the most successful players are selected and a junior team is formed. The same team is formed at another elite school, Millfield Senior School in Somerset. Then a competition is held, and the strongest is identified. The men then play for university teams such as Oxford and Cambridge.

The next stage is a professional career. Polo is developed not only within the kingdom, it is popular in many countries, but the discipline is not represented at the World Championships and Olympics.

Modern polo competitions

The most famous polo tournament, the Cartier Queen’s Cup, is held in mid-June and is sponsored by Cartier. These competitions are attended by members of the royal family and even the Queen herself. Tickets can be purchased remotely, but places are limited. Another important tournament is the Gold Cup, also called the English Open.

Let’s summarise the results

We can summarise by saying that horse polo continues to be an elitist sport and is in good demand in the UK. Bookmakers accept bets on polo with good odds. The game is quite interesting, and that is why it is developing in many European countries, in America, in Asia. Learning to play polo is not so easy, because you need not only to be skilful with a stick, but also to be a good rider. Predictions say that polo will continue to develop. New tournaments are appearing, prize money is growing. We can say that the elitist sport is becoming global.