The UK Polocrosse Association has stated that the A grade competition at their National Championships in September will be played as ‘mixed’ teams, meaning that there will be one section of men and one section of ladies (editor’s note: yes, the name is misleading, we like the term ‘teams of two single sex sections”‘ or “TOTSSS” for short). The idea was initially discussed at the UKPA AGM in 2012 and then again in the Club Council meeting in March 2013 but was voted down at that meeting when the UKPA asked the clubs to show how they felt about the idea.

However, since then the UKPA say they have continued to consult with clubs and the membership and they have said that now approximately half the clubs and half the A grade and B grade players in the UK support the idea. Therefore, the idea will not be universally popular but the UKPA have said that the best way to assess the potential impact on the sport and the UKPA’s clubs and members is to run the Nationals in this format as a trial this year. The UKPA have also said that they will continue to listen to the membership and gather opinions going forwards.

There is expected to be some leeway in the actual team formats, some suggestions have included that junior boys would be allowed to play in the ladies’ section and ladies would be allowed to play in the men’s section if required. UKPA CEO Barry Amor told us that there will be a meeting at the early season tournament this weekend to discuss some ideas that could help shape the actual rules of the competition and to listen to players’ opinions.

There are arguments both for and against the actual idea, the main one for the idea being that the UK Ladies sections have historically been strong at international level due to the amount they play against men. However, a number of ladies are tired of playing against men and there is a feeling that the UK game should start to mirror the international sport to help the UK succeed at international level, particularly on the men’s side.

Aside from the arguments for and against the idea itself there are many arguments about the logistical problems it could bring and these are probably what will be more hotly debated now. The idea is simple to do in a country such as Australia where numbers allow men’s and ladies’ only teams to be formed but in the UK the numbers are far smaller and the clubs are fighting over a much smaller pool of top level players, particularly within the ladies.

There are clubs in the UK, such as Rugby, who have planned to run out an A grade team this season and have imported foreign players to do it. They now face problems as their A grade teams consist entirely of men. Other clubs in recent months have made changes and brought in female players. perhaps expecting this change to happen. Some clubs will push up players from lower grades but there have been suggestions that this could lead to safety issues for both players and horses if they start to be exposed to game travelling at a much faster pace than usual.

The clubs who now face uncertainty will feel perhaps justifiable anger that the UKPA has announced this plan at this stage of the year, a mere week before the season starts and there has to be some sympathy with their cause. The UKPA statement suggests they are prepared for this anger as it states that its intends to “help as many clubs as possible to enter viable teams to the Nationals”. However, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, if the UKPA fails to deliver a good solution or indeed a good competition at Nationals then they could find themselves facing a lively AGM.

The UKPA statement in full:

The UKPA Executive would like to announce that, after much deliberation, it has decided to run the 2013 Nationals with a mixed ‘A’ grade division. This will require ‘A’ grade Teams to have one section of men and one of ladies.

Following on from the annual Council meeting and a subsequent poll of clubs, the Executive is aware that opinion is fairly evenly divided across the membership on the possible benefits of this change for the development and future of the sport. However, after extensive discussion the Executive has decided that, on balance, the best way to resolve this issue is to assess the impact of mixed A grade on both clubs and the Nationals event itself by running Nationals in this format as a trial this year.

In order to facilitate the change to mixed, and to help as many clubs as possible to enter viable teams to the Nationals, the Executive will be shortly presenting a set of rules governing how the teams may be set out.

The Executive acknowledges that this is work in progress and intends to monitor the results of the mixed tournaments and continue to gather opinions and advice from the membership. A full report on the effectiveness of the change will be presented for the 2013 AGM with proposals for the way ahead for 2014.

Eric Jenkinson
UKPA Chairman