Nick Wiles is undergoing his first year as the president of the HPA in the same way as several political leaders all over the world – the uncertainty sorrounding the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak worldwide. And he has demonstrated a huge responsability to manage one of the leading and most intense associations within polo. “I took my position in November, and we had to deal with this challenge very quickly. But the truth is that we have a great team of people who work with us, such as Olly Huhges and David Woodd, among others. Were going through a tough moment, but we are doing well”, Nick Wiles told PoloLine.
As we have stated on many occasions thoroghout the last days, the polo community remains optimistic, following the official announcement by the HPA last Friday of and updated calendar for the British season, in order to play as long as there are chances to do so. In order to make this decision, the support from the British polo community towards the HPA, especially from patrons, organisations, teams and players, was crucial. “We have received a fantastic support, and still is. In addition, we are in close contact with Eduardo Novillo Astrada; we do know the importance to remain together in these challenging days”, the HPA President points out.
And he adds: “Out biggest challenge now is to wait either the end of the lockdown or when it starts to ease, align with the government guidelines and see what their decisions will be. Also, watch what other sports do, see what they decide and be ready to kick off at a suitable moment. In short, we’re determined to work hard in order to keep the season open as long as there’s a chance.”
Unlike in other countries, the arrival of international flights in the United Kingdom are permitted, but with some restrictions, in accordance with each airline company. For example, it is possible to purchase an air ticket from the US to go to England. But it is not the same for all countries. It is, without doubts, one of the biggest challenges an eventual European polo season has to deal with, mostly if one thinks about all those who remain in countries like Argentina.
With regards about what’s currently going on in England, Wiles says that “horse transportation from Continental Europe is stopped because it is not an essential activity. On the other side, the activities that are taking place at the clubs by those who are living there, are essential – feed the horses, move and training them. The horses are being trained.”
From an optimistic perspective, and with the thoughts that a polo season in England could be be able to be played, hygiene will be obviously a decisive issue, as well as the individual responsibility on this matter. Wiles says: “It is important that the clubs have a strong discipline with regards to the hygiene and safety standards, in order to maintain those who are within the polo community healthy as well as guarantee their security and respect to social distancing.”
The role of the HPA for the development of English polo is decisive in several aspects – movement, number of clubs, the prestige of the season, and counting. Their commitment with the development of the season is crucial, something that is not the same in other countries, where the governing body of the sport is not that decisive within the sport. “The two most recurrent questions that we’ve been asked since the start of the pandemic, are about the certainty about what’s going to happen, and also, we are asked a lot how can we help them, because we all agree that the pandemic will bring a strong negative economic impact on the polo community. With regards to the first question, the truth is that we are waiting for the government guidelines.”
And it is the latter, precisely, something that brings a lot of trouble for all those who make a living from any activity related to polo, in order to generate an income – the negative economic impact as a result of everything that’s happening. “It is difficult to be able to discuss about what will happen to polo once the pandemic is over. We can talk about it afterwards, discuss it properly. What we do know is that there will be a deep and negative economic impact.”
But looking ahead, and along with the optimistic vibes the polo community has brought to him, the President of the HPA finishes: “I am sure we will have more certainty through May 7-11, when the lockdown imposed by the British government could come to an end. That’s when we could be more sure about what we will do. But we are confident that we can start the season by mid June and we everybody can be able to come in accurate form.”