POLO 2018: Back and Bigger Than Ever

Bri Paterson interviews the minds between this year's St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament

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This week I got the chance to sit down with the St Andrews Polo committee, in preparation for the big event on Saturday 21 April, which is coming up quickly. This year everyone’s favourite outdoor event on the St Andrews Calendar is going to be bigger and better than ever with larger sponsors, and more attendees than ever before. “We aren’t limited the way other events are,” says Chris Li, the PR representative. “Because it’s at Errol Park we can take more people than ever be-fore, with around 1500 people attending this year.”

The advantages of being in a venue outside of St Andrews is that they can truly sell tickets until they feel they’ve made as much money as possible, as there is no risk of overcrowding the same way there is in Kinkell Byre or Younger Hall. After all this event is the largest polo event in Scotland, and has been growing in the hundreds since its inception only a few years ago.There have been a few changes along the way, in an attempt to outdo and out-profit the previous years, something that the number of people attending certainly supports. This year has been a year of challenges for the Polo committee as it is the first year in which their founder has not been directly involved in establishing the event.

Furthermore the stakes have been upped with larger sponsors committee participating meaning that the committee really have something to prove. And from the success they’ve had so far with selling tickets this year appears to have at least achieved a grander scale than ever before. Although they can’t give me an exact number the committee are happy to tell me that applications for Whispering Angel tables – the ‘VVIP’ of the event – have exceeded those of the prior years. Being sponsored for the first time by a rosé brand is a good step for the alcohol will be very much available for us thirsty students. While I’ve never heard of it Whispering Angel is a French brand which is particularly popular in the states. It also helps that I’m told it’s very good. Another sponsor is Crombie Coats, a high class coat making brand that specialise in luxury goods. While these two sponsors are incredibly generous they don’t help the imagery of polo being obtainable for everyone, something that the committee want to address in how they formulate the event.

This year, like always, there are a series of perks offered to those who buy a VIP ticket over a classic one, with the Whispering Angels table-goers receiving excessive amounts of alcohol for their tables. Even classic tickets get one drink free with their ticket, while VIP get four, ensuring a merry time for all. The committee is quick to point out that classic tickets should not be sniffed at, as much of the entertainment will be in the classic section so as to ensure that the groups are intermingled and there’s no vibe of exclusive snobbery that is so frequently associated with the sport. The very fact tickets are only £25 for a classic one and £50 for VIP make this day a relatively cheap day out, with roundabout buses to and from the venue included in the price. And of course everyone is entitled to a drink on arrival as well as pitch side views. From the mouth of an experienced attendee, Chris’ suggestion is to pack a picnic and hope for nice weather, although he assures me that they have prepared for the worst and have marquees incase of showers. Given the odd weather we’ve been having lately anything is possible, although previous years have been cursed with over-cast gloomier days. We also don’t need to stress our memory of how the so called ‘Beast From The East’ wrecked events across St Andrews earlier this year. “Hopefully it won’t turn into a muddy day out, but we’re prepared for everything,” chuckles Chris.

Inclusivity is something that the committee is keen to project, as they want to shed aside the stereotypes of snobbery and elitism within the game. Instead, few if any committee members play the sport and the committee is as inclusive as it’s ever been. Chris assures me that this is one of the nicest groups he’s been involved in and that there is strictly no nepotism in committee positions or Whispering Angel tables, as Polo are not keen on the stereotyping that produces. While some of the members have been on board from very early on the majority of founding members have left or are leaving his year, meaning this is the first year where the committee are not entirely old hands. This must have been a bit of a challenge for the group, although Chris jokes that it’s harder for those founders who have now left, as they have to actually enjoy the event rather than running it.

Above all the committee wanted to highlight their strong support for their chosen charity Help for Heroes. While most events and balls that are hosted by St Andrews students are not-for-profit Polo take this to the extreme by directly partnering with Help for Heroes, ensuring that as much of the profits as possible go to the charity. They’re also very proud of this relationship, with Help for Heroes being mentioned in a lot of their blog posts and having a stand for them at the event so as to remind attendees that their rosé money is going to a good cause. The charity has been partnered with Polo since the year of its reboot in 2014 and one of the teams playing is provided from the nearby military base.Overall, while I’ve never been to polo before, this year has me excited to check it out, as the committee promise that it will be the biggest event they’ve hosted so far. And with pitch side views of the event provided with every ticket, as well as a supply of alcohol not to be sniffed at, it looks like they’ll pull it off. Not to mention the big name brands supporting them and the money going to a truly worthwhile cause. In short, attendees can feel charitable in their attempts to enjoy the Scottish weather. Whatever it may be.

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