Polo prepares to pop bottles at Errol Park

Sarah John previews the Polo Tournament.

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Photo: Sammi Ciardi

Arguably, there are around four rites of passage that every student must complete by the end of their four years here, as part of the traditional social requirements of your standard upper middle-class St Andrean: Raisin Weekend, the May Dip, attending a ball, and attending the annual University of St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament.

Equestrian fans left and right rejoice: The Charity Polo Tournament is one of the most well-known and renowned events that the University of St Andrews hosts every year. Welcoming university students, alumni, and visitors from across the country – polo fans or not – the tournament is one that integrally defines St Andrean culture, in keeping up with our town’s well-oiled and maintained image of urbane frivolities. It is an affair not to be forgone, especially by those who are members of our soon-to-be graduating class of 2017, who have yet to experience the atmosphere of excitement, panache, competition, and friendly rivalry of the tournament, in which our very own St Andrews polo team competes with teams from other universities. Branded as Scotland’s largest ticketed polo event, the tournament is expected to garner attention from all across the United Kingdom.

The epitome of sophistication, style, and class, the polo tournament will take place at the scenic Errol Park Estate in Perthshire. Errol Park has been the venue of choice for the polo tournament since April 2015, when surging popularity prompted the committee to find a bigger venue to accommodate its increasing acclaim and demand. The event is an all-day ordeal chock-full of various matches between teams and players from across the United Kingdom.

For those who are unfamiliar with the sport and are simply going for the champagne (and the opportunity to dress up), polo is a fairly easy sport to understand. Essentially hockey on horseback, the objective of the game is to score as many points as possible by using a long mallet to shoot a small ball into the opposing team’s goal. A single game typically lasts about two hours, and is divided into periods called chukkas.

The standard ticket includes round-trip transport form St Andrews, pitch-side views of the tournament, and a single drink from the bar – guests will receive their choice of spirit with a mixer or Bouvet-Ladubay. VIP ticket holders will receive an additional four glasses of Bouvet allocated via tabs on their wristbands, and VVIP ticket holders this year will receive everything included in the standard and VIP tickets, along with twelve bottles of Bouvet per table and an afternoon tea spread with a hot tea bar to complement. All guests will have access to the food court, which includes vendors from across Scotland. To list a few: The Cheesy Toast Shack, The Crepe Shack, Blackhorn, Chick + Pea, Pizza Geeks, On The Roll, Alplings, barnacles & bones, and Babu Bombay Street Kitchen.

Returning attendees from previous years may notice that the VVIP ticket no longer includes unlimited champagne. Head of PR Sibilla Grenon has expanded on this tweak to the ticket, explaining that “unlimited alcohol is not the best way to give value to [their] VVIP guests.” The committee is “focusing on improving the overall day experience through greater polo integration and heating, among other improvements.”

While this may come as a disappointment to day-drinking enthusiasts, guests can rest assured that the committee is working hard to ensure maximum enjoyment of the event. Anyhow, twelve bottles of Bouvet coupled with a drink from the bar should be an ample amount of alcohol to fulfil the appropriate intoxication quotas of a polo tournament. VVIP ticket holders will also have access to the Champagne Garden (where food can be found), VIP areas and bars, and a complimentary hot beverage bar. As the demand for VVIP tickets this year is at a record high, with the committee receiving 417 applications in 24 hours – nearly four times higher than preceding years – improvements to the VVIP section based on feedback from previous guests have been made, such as an increased focus on security.

The universities of Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh, Warwick, Cirencester, Oxford Brookes, Newcastle, and Kent will be coming up to participate in the tournament. Additionally, the British Army polo team, Royal Scots Dragoons, will be taking part, as well as two teams of Help for Heroes veterans and two exhibition teams. Overall, there will be twelve to fourteen chukkas played throughout the afternoon.

As for attire, unpredictable Scottish winds complicate things a bit. Nevertheless, guests should try their best to don semi-formal spring dress. Think linens, espadrilles, spring dresses, chinos, and dress shirts. Ladies, feel free to accessorise with sunglasses and hats, as the weather on the day is predicted to be clear and sunny.

This year, the tournament is proud to be supporting Help for Heroes official, to which all profits will be sent to. The charity helps support and rehabilitate UK servicemen and veterans.

With continually escalating hype in preparation for next weekend’s shenanigans, the 2017 Charity Polo Tournament will be held on Saturday 22 April, between the hours of 11 am and 5 pm.

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