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Interview with Chip Campbell, Chairman of the USPA

October 13, 2017
October 13, 2017
The USPA has appointed Edward "Chip" Campbell as Chairman of the Association. Campbell is not a new face to polo: He’s a former President, Treasurer and a second-generation player from the southeast circuit. He takes on the lead roll with a full plate of concerns about the past and the future of American polo. Pololine’s Ron Allen asked Campbell about his objectives in his new job:

What do you hope to accomplish during your first term as USPA Chairman?
The first term of my chairmanship and all other officers is only one year per our constitution and by-laws. We have elections every year; basically all the officers and about 1/2 of the board are elected every year. Historically though, all officer positions are voted on every year to give each a term of about 3 years. Thus, the USPA spends basically half the year in "electioneering mode." This is not healthy as it promotes too much internal politics and inefficiencies.
On the sporting side of the USPA, there are 3 LLC's, 20 plus committees, about 15 total employees, 29 Governors, 200 plus clubs, 5,000 plus or minus members of different categories and a $14 million per year annual budget. Add a worldwide licensing company and 15 or so more employees and its own separate board that all fall under the auspices of the USPA, and you can see there is quite a lot for a volunteer officer corps and board to consider. The constant turnover is healthy but, also results in operational inefficiencies that prevent our staff and capital from serving our membership and clubs properly. During my tenure as Chairman, I will be working with all our committees, LLC’s, our new CEO Bob Puetz and 3 other volunteer officers to try and improve on our internal processes and procedures to gain more efficiencies.

What is your short-term vision for the USPA?
During my tenure I would hope that we can: 
1) Improve the overall operational efficiency of our organization, not only in how we conduct business daily but, also providing a clear framework to our CEO on what powers he/she has and their accountability to the board. This probably will require amending our constitution and by laws.
2) Do a better job of promoting, valuing, displaying and awarding our USPA Cups and tournaments to clubs that will conduct them properly.
3) Provide better aid and assist those elite young American players that have the talent to rise to the high goal at all levels.
4) Continue to improve quality and recruit new talent to our umpire program. 
5) Continue to refine our marketing of the sport and how we spend marketing dollars annually.
6) Establish a long term strategic plan relative to investment, operation and accountability for regional polo centers. Generally, improve the quality of polo at all levels and in all disciplines.

What do you see as the major issues going forward?
Build on the trust and respect of the 29 member board; ensure and promote continuity, respect and credibility within the association; balance the financial assets of the USPA between "smart spend" and "savings and investment"; instill a better perception for the USPA and its members that "we are truly here for the betterment of the sport" and improve the quality and level of play country wide within the USA.

Santa Barbara dropped their high goal from 20 to 16 and has six teams. How does that translate for the Triple Crown being lowered to 22 goals?
The reality is that there are more teams and American players willing to invest and compete at the 18 to 22 goal level than at the 26 goal level, today. I realize this point can be argued and debated and if it turns out otherwise in a few years we can always change; the handicap levels have been changed in the past due to current conditions within the polo world. Our USPA Tournament and High Goal committees spent a lot of time and effort considering this matter prior to making a recommendation to the board a couple weeks ago at our fall meeting on the issue of lowering the handicap level of the American Triple Crown tournaments. 

The dues paying membership numbers appear to be stagnating when you look at the list of active players. Do you see this changing in the future?
We should focus on playing members and those that invest in the sport; our dues structure is to cheap relative to the value of the USPA membership in my opinion. Our membership and dues structure needs to be re-classed. We will look at our membership numbers more analytically to see where we really are with respect to our membership. This will help us gain more efficiency in budgeting, administrating, spending and investing in the future. We need to get back to the sobering reality of where polo is today and realign some of our goals for the future.

Most of the Team USPA players have not gone up in handicap. You are now recruiting established players who are already rated at 4 and 5 goals. Does this represent a change in philosophy for Team USPA? 
The Team USPA program is widely misunderstood and it has evolved and changed a bit since being created several years ago. Most people think it is only for the elite players and that is partially true but, it is also for kids that can come, learn, play better polo than they normally would have an opportunity and go back to their local clubs with knowledge, expertise and value add type benefits that will aid and assist in the growth of polo at the grassroots and club level. The FIP program has provided a great competition venue for our more elite and higher goal players. The goal of raising individual handicaps is a challenging one and requires a special individual. I suggest you explore this subject with Charles Smith who is the Chairman of our PD, LLC subsidiary on this issue and subject.