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By Alejandra Ocampos Interviews by PoloLine & Alejandra Ocampos Back in November, in an exclusive interview with PoloLine, Gonzalo Pieres spoke about a new rule that is being implemented in the Gold Cup at Ellerstina, with the idea of avoiding pre-arranged matches. Just like Gonzalo mentioned at the time, should three teams belonging to the same zone be tied in the games they’ve won (such as, for example, those who have won two matches and lost one), making it through to the next round is not going to be defined by goal difference, as it used to, but through some sort of a round-robin stage among all three teams, playing mini-games each comprising two chukkas. So, the possibility of pre-arranged matches becomes null. Much has been said about pre-arranged games in England during the 2011 season, and Gonzalo’s statements had immediate repercussions within the English polo community. Having echoed the six-time Palermo Open champion’s comments, the Hurlingham Polo Association decided to implement a new rule, the penalty shootout rule. Unlike that which was implemented at Ellerstina for the Gold Cup, with mini-games each comprised of two chukkas, the newly established rule involves the execution of penalty shots among all three teams in question. This decision appeared to have reached consensus among the HPA and the high-goal players and patrons, although some have their doubts. Anyhow, during the Queen's Cup there was no need to use this rule. PoloLine spoke with several of the most important polo representatives, who are presently playing the UK season, in order to know their opinion on this topic. Adolfo Cambiaso I don’t agree with this new rule because it is detrimental to those teams who move on to this penalty-shot stage, in case any of the patrons have to hit these penalty shots for their teams. And if the match is defined by chukkas instead of penalty shootouts, it is also detrimental because, all in all, it is yet another game they get to play as compared to those who have already qualified. We need to aim at favouring teams who win and not giving a second chance to those who don’t win and then speculate. For instance, in golf and tennis, whoever loses goes straight home. Instead of seeking new rules for a sport in which everything has already been invented, they should dedicate their time to other aspects that are more important such as the condition of playing fields, the drawing of lots and the organisation of tournaments in general, or senseless rules such as indicating player’s handicaps between parenthesis and forbidding them from participating in high goal tournaments. This is the case of Matt Loder. Adrian Kirby The rule was agreed on a trial basis by the High Goal Patrons by majority after various opinions were considered. It reflects the new cooperation amongst the High Goal community. Carlos Gracida I think this new rule is great. I believe penalty shootouts are a good idea. This is exactly what I was talking about when I was interviewed by PQ International. We still need further changes as regards the way matches are refereed. Eduardo Novillo Astrada Jr. In my opinion, the new rule has worked just fine. Pablo MacDonough Anything being done to avoid pre-arranged games sounds fine to me. Yes, I agree with this new rule. I think it is useful. This was widely proven in the Queen's Cup. However, we must make sure it continues to work in the future. One thing is clear: avoiding pre-arranged games is a great thing. However, allowing the qualifying stage to be defined by penalty shootouts is a bit unfair. Perhaps, if one more penalty shot were allowed, I wouldn’t disagree either if all four players hit these penalty shootouts. Polito Pieres I believe it is a pretty good rule. All games count. I think that this way there are less pre-arranged matches, which is a very good thing. At first, it seemed as though this was going to happen in almost every zone, and in the end it never happened in any of them; but I would’ve liked to watch some penalty shootouts. I don’t really know what changes I’d make regarding this rule because I’m not quite sure how it has been implemented or, for example, how many penalty shootouts we are talking about. David Stirling Jr.: I don’t agree with this rule because it penalises teams such as El Remanso, for example, as their patrons don’t hit penalty shootouts. This rule does not suit teams that make an effort to win and score a large number of goals. Since this is not defined by goal difference, these teams end up being at the same level as others who won by a minimum difference. Agustín Merlos I find it strange having to get our horses prepared and organise everything only to hit a few penalty shootouts in order to define the qualifying stage. It sounds like football. The whole logistics is pretty complex in polo, so I’m not sure if I’m in agreement. This rule has been set to stop matches from being pre-arranged, which I do agree with, because we can’t have any more pre-arranged games. They’re so bad for polo... However, hitting penalty shots to define the qualifying stage... oh, well, time will tell whether it is the right way to avoid this or not. As regards modifications, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see how it works out. Once again, I must say I don’t trust it will work, though it may. Nevertheless, at present it sounds complex. Alejandro Agote We still haven’t been able to see what results it may bring about because they still haven’t needed to define any qualifying stage through penalty shootouts. I think this rule aims at avoiding pre-arranged matches that could affect a third team. I believe that trying it out will be a good thing, and then we’ll see the results. I think that the worst thing of all is watching pre-arranged games. Pepe Heguy I believe that anything that is done to ensure that matches are played for real, that is to say, without any pre-arranged games, is great. I agree with the spirit of the rule, but I don’t like this question of penalty shootouts. I really prefer what Ellerstina did in the Gold Cup, in which those who were tied played two chukkas the following day to see who was moving on to the next stage. It is a useful rule. The games played for the Queen's Cup were all very good. But I don’t subscribe to the penalty shootout issue. There are three penalty shooters, so what happens with a team such as El Remanso who only have two professional players? What happens if one of the players appears on a polo pony with a mini mallet because that makes it easier? And if one of the players says he has a fever and is replaced by a better shooter? It is a good rule, but it needs to be perfected by leaving the penalty shots out of the question.