RULES OF ATTRACTION
Polo rules are complex and spectators often get confused. We guide you through the basics and explain the logics of the game.
Polo is a sport with a simple logic but also one with a complex set of rules. Let us start with the basics.
Polo is played on a large rectangular grass field. Each team has four players. Number one is the forward, the prime goal scorer, number two is the wingman who makes way and collects any missed passes, number three is the midfielder who directs the game in both directions and number four is the defensive force. Each player cover a player from the opponents in the defensive plays. A game is normally played over six chukkas (periods) of 7 minutes 30 seconds and horses are changed in the intervalls. One horse can play two chukkas, but in high goal games the pros actually change horses during chukkas. That is how intense the game is.
On each side you will find two goal posts. Each team shall get the ball across the goal line and between the posts to score. So far so good. Now, in order to have a safe play as horses can travel at 50 km/h, sticks swing and players tackle, or ride-off, as it is called in polo there has to be rules for the safety of horses and players.
The easy rules: A player with the ball has the right of way if he travels in the exact direction of the ball. No-one may cross his path forcing him to slow down. However, opposing players can disturb him by riding him of his path, shoulder by shoulder, or by blocking his shots with their sticks. That is why the play tends to look like a train as all rides fall in behind the ballkeeper to distract or to pick up any missed balls.
There is a handicap system. Players start at -2 and can reach +10 handicap. Summing the teams handicap makes for a one less experienced team to get a few goals advantage from the start of the game.
Penalties is also a vital part of the game. If any player breach the rules of safety, crossing the imaginary line of the ball, i.e. the direction the ball is moving in, thus preventing the ball keeping player from free path or forcing the player to slow down a penalty is given. Penalties comes in the way of a free-kick which may be guarded or shot towards an unguarded goal, depending on the severity of the foul.
The rules of polo are governed by Hurlingham Polo Association, HPA, in England. The first polo match was played on Hounslow Heath in 1869 and in 1875 the Hurlingham Polo Committee drew up the first English rules. Today most countries follow the HPA rules.
Download the HPA rules and regulations here >