• The future of Polo

The future of Polo
The future of PoloThe future of Polo

The future of Polo

Interview: Daniel Boudou

January 29, 2016
January 29, 2016
By Andrés Ugarte Larraín
The 2016 polo season has kicked off in Palm Beach, Dubai and Thailand, to name a few polo destinations. However, as the new year began, many people from within the polo world voiced their opinions about the state of polo in general, all demanding urgent changes. With this in mind PoloLine approached one of the most respected umpires in the world, Daniel Boudou, to talk about the Thai Polo Open he recently oversaw and to discuss what changes needed in the game of polo. 

You have over twenty years of polo experience. Do you still enjoy polo as it is today?
I like pressure - the more challenging the game, the more comfortable I feel. But being in Thailand is obviously very nice, kind of like a holiday since there is not a lot of polo and we have a lot of free time. 

What do you think about the level of umpiring in Argentina at the moment?
I like it, even though there are many things to improve on, and that should be done, but those are political decisions that need to be made; someone needs to grab the bull by the horns and make a few changes. That needs to come from the AAP, not from us. 

Over the last few seasons there has been a need to invite umpires from different countries to referee in Argentina, so they can learn and apply that manner of umpiring in their countries. The last two finals of the Argentine Open, where Brits Peter Wright (2014) and Julian Appleby (2015) oversaw the game, is the main example of this.
"They are both qualified to oversee any level of polo, but I don’t think they have the experience that Argentine referees have, simply because they haven’t been exposed to that type of polo as much as we have; I think they were rushed into the final of the Open, even though they are qualified," states Boudou.

"Now a type of elite group of umpires has been formed," he continues. "They are supposedly the top eight umpires in the world, who oversee the Triple Crown in Argentina. I think it is great, but just as there is a qualification tournament for the Open, there should be a qualification trial for umpires. I put forward an idea years ago where every player at the Open, every director, and every umpire could vote, therefore creating a type of handicap for umpires. This way there would be a slightly more objective categorisation of umpires. But I understand that it is complicated to put into practice." 

Would you like there to be a panel of umpires who exclusively oversee the most important tournaments in the world?
I think that would be great, but it also has a down side. The positive is that you supposedly have the best referees in the world overseeing the best tournaments. The negative is that I, for example, finish in Argentina and would have to go to the US to umpire the same players, and then go to England and umpire the same players again, before returning to Argentina to do the same thing. There is a saturation in terms of faces, and that’s why I think there should be a rotation. If you only have eight umpires then you constantly repeat them. The players get to the field and say, “;;;you, again!”. That’s the bad side. But apart from that I think it is a brilliant idea. We would have to see how it can be carried out and how the rotation would work. 

Do you think it is possible for the three strongest polo countries - Argentina, USA and UK - to implement the same rules?
Of course they can all have the same rules if they want to; it’s just a matter of catering to all the whims and opinions. The problem is not with the rules, but in the interpretation. Two umpires can see the same play and have differing opinions because there are many factors to take into consideration, such as distance and speed. That makes it tricky to unify opinion. It’s hard enough uniting all Argentine opinions. 

What do you think about the possibility of punishing a player by introducing a type of sin-bin, were the player leaves the field for a certain amount of time and then comes back on?
The problem with polo is that if you remove a player, you take away 25% of the team, which is a lot. That’s why Argentina allows a substitute to come on. I would make it so that the substitute has to have one or two goals less than the player who has been sent off, and that the substitute plays one or two chukkers before the offending player comes back on. The options can be analysed, but I think it is easier than that. Today, for example, if I blow a technical I can hand out the punishment I want, because the rules protect me. We generally move the play forward by a mark. But if every technical were to result in a thirty yard penalty, then the players would think twice before talking back. You wouldn’t have to take anyone off the field and the spectators can still watch who they came to see. I like that idea a bit more. 

Are there any polo objectives you are yet to achieve? 
I have already overseen fourteen Argentine Open finals, and have twenty-one or twenty-two years of experience. I think that’s enough. I would like to share everything I have learnt on the field with the next generation. There is a school for umpires which needs work. 

Do you feel that umpires have the support of the Argentine Polo Association (AAP)?
There are times when we feel very supported and other when we feel totally alone. They usually tell us when they support us, but at other times there are no sanctions and that can make you really angry.