A look at today’s USPA

A look at today’s USPA

By Alex Webbe

I can say I
have been somewhat of a maverick when it comes to support of the USPA but view
myself as unbiased with regard to programs and leadership of the association.  I have recently looked over emails from
candidates for Governor-at-Large positions in the United States Polo
Association’s political structure one supporting the USPA nominees and a slate
representing independent candidates and felt both were missing one of the most
important features of today’s association- Specifically, the USPA’s systematic
spending of its “branding” revenue on efforts to grow the sport while
conscientiously saving the remainder of that revenue in an endowment structure to
perpetually fund established programs.

While one
side is harping about how the low goal players and clubs are being overlooked I
marvel at the number of trips that are taken by Ed Armstrong and Kris Bowman on
behalf of these low-goal clubs.  I am
amazed that while the association has created and subsidized polo training
centers in an effort to bring new players into the game, and experimentally funds
the Polo Development Initiative that underwrites everything from polo school
expansion, additional horses, advertising, lesson and clinic programs, to name
just a few, sabers are still being rattled suggesting that not enough is being
done for low-goal and entry level polo players and clubs.

As far as
the perceived emphasis on high-goal polo in this country one only needs to
review the history of the Open and the gold Cup to see that they have been
hosted by clubs and patrons that financially subsidize their production.  I would be misleading you if I tried to
convince you that there were more major league baseball teams in the country
than there are little league teams, but it would also be misleading to say that
there is as much commercial interest in little league games as there is in the
world series.  High-goal polo allows
every player in the game to see what a player is capable of doing, what a
player is capable of achieving.  It sets
the bar for which every player can strive toward, with the personal
acknowledgement of our individual limitations.

While there
are opportunities which can be garnered from supporting the promotion of high
goal polo, the USPA has consistently focused on its mission of “growing the
sport”, something best done at the club level.  From what I read in polo magazine, I believe a
low goal club only needs to contact the USPA and ask for support and they will
find that funds are readily and willingly available for local club initiatives
in grant amounts of $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000.

As far as
the bellyaching about the lack of membership growth, I suggest that there is no
magic formula that will grow the membership. 
If you have any doubts, understand that the Polo Training Foundation was
created in 1967 with a single director and a staff of volunteers in an effort
to do just that.  Now 45 years later, and
with an extended staff, we find that it has been no more successful than the
Department of energy has been at reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  There is no question that we need to find a
way to grow the game, but players and clubs have to stop looking to the USPA to
do it by themselves.  There is nothing
stopping individual clubs from creating programs of their own to grow the
game.  There are no restrictions keeping
them from developing their own marketing programs, schools and clinics, if they
so choose if they decide that the association is doing a shoddy job, but one of
the most vocal protests against the association is the resounding demand to ask
for the expenditure of some of the many millions of dollars that have been
created through the USPA Properties. 
What these vocal critics need to understand is that the association has
chosen to take the responsible action of creating endowments with these
funds-trusts, if you will, that will be able to fund designated programs in
perpetuity.  I would think that in the
current climate in America their actions would be heralded as insightful and

I called the
President of the Association, Chuck Weaver, who I met for the first time about
a year ago, a low goal player from the heartland.  He readily returned my call.  I wanted to ask him about all of this money I
had been hearing about.  He said he did
not want to get involved in the current email battle which he feels is a
healthy outcome of the recent administration’s efforts to open up the selection
of leadership to the full membership, however, he was happy to explain the
current saving philosophy the USPA has embraced.  Weaver said “We cannot blindly depend on the
revenue of Properties to continue.  Most
remember “Gant” and “Members Club” and understand that brands do not live forever,”
he added, “but we do have one of the best brands out there. With a long term
view in mind we have designed an endowment philosophy that will be in place to
fund proven projects without touching the principle.  We’re looking to create a solid financial
foundation for the USPA that will allow the association to continue to offer
support and direction to its membership far into the future.”

It strikes
me that the USPA has adopted a plan like the one that was supposed to have been
put in place to insure our social security until the monies were moved into the
government’s general funds and spent. 
The association is hedging against future disruptions in the income
produced by Properties.

While it has
not been the history of the USPA to financially underwrite the efforts of
individual clubs and players, which is just what is being done today in an
effort to promote and grow the sport.  If
you’ve got better ideas, roll them out.  It’s
evident that the current leadership is trying to reach out to its membership as
was demonstrated by the recent nationwide survey and the strategic planning
process that followed the survey.  It’s
now time for you to make the effort as well.