The UK polocrosse community is preparing for its season opening tournament on the 14th and 15th of May at Onley Grounds equestrian centre, the venue for the World Cup in 2 months time, in what is a critical year for polocrosse in the UK. The UK season is getting underway with the UKPA early season tournament, a new addition to the calendar this year. Normally the UKPA only hold the UK National Championships at the end of the season and the rest of the season is left up to the UKPA member clubs. However this year the UKPA have also decided to hold an early season tournament, they say to ensure the season has plenty of tournaments running and also to make sure it starts running earlier than normal, as the whole of July will be lost to the World Cup with no domestic play going on.
This event kicks off what is a very important year for UK polocrosse. Along with the UK National Championships and the World Cup itself they are also hosting the Irish in three weeks time as both countries finalise their world cup preparations for July. The UK are the first country apart from Australia to host a World Cup and, seeing that their membership is less than 10% of the size of the Polocrosse Association of Australia, that will inevitably put a great deal of pressure on the UKPA and its volunteer Executive and members. With the UK responsible for not only putting on the event itself but also providing all the playing horses they are relying heavily on the generousity of their membership to make sure they have enough horses of a high enough standard for the World Cup teams to play on.
They do not stand completely alone though, with the Irish Polocrosse Association and their members also contributing a number of horses to the World Cup pools in a very generous act of support and also experienced polocrosse players and supporters coming from around the world to help at the World Cup itself.
A successful World Cup in the UK could reap massive benefits for the sport, as the high profile event will lead to more exposure for the sport and therefore growth of the sport in the UK.The UKPA has concentrated heavily on growth over the last few years, driving up the number of pony club branches playing in the UK as well as increasing their own membership over the last two years. There are some who believe this is a make or break year for the UKPA, with a successful World Cup having the potential to rocket the sport massively into the public eye and see the sport grow and the UKPA being able to become more of a professional body, rather than simply run by volunteers, while an unsuccessful world cup could see the UK criticised by its fellow IPC countries and also have negative effects for the image and the future of the sport in the UK.
In truth the second option is probably unlikely and it is more likely that even if the World Cup was unsuccessful the UKPA would survive and continue much as they are, though undoubtedly they would be damaged and have to work very hard to repair that damage. However for the most part the World Cup seems to be on track, though undoubtedly things such as the venue change and changes of ticket prices have not helped paint a picture of completely readiness, and now with just 7 weeks to go the UKPA is mobilising itself for one final massive push to make the event as big and successful as possible. The UKPA’s CEO Iain Heaton, who is doing a lot of the organising for the World Cup, has this week asked the UKPA membership to help in anyway they can over the next two months in order to help deliver an event the UK can be proud of and put the sport of polocrosse firmly on the map in the UK.