Agustin Merlos comments on the rule changes

By Jorge Andrades

Before the start of the Triple Crown, the Argentine Polo Association made two changes in the rules of polo and gave a couple of recommendations to the umpires in order to improve the level of the play and make the game more  interesting and dynamic

From  the Tortugas Open, the players could  hook the off side back shot  without committing foul; but could not pass over the ball while hitting the penalties ( before, they could do it once, which made the executions extremely slow).

As for the recommendations, the AAP instructed the umpires to sanction severely  playing  the ball around  and also the well known “walking”.  The referees must not tolerate any shouts on the field or dangerous fouls, punishing  the players with technical fouls and also yellow or red cards.

Finally, when the play was stopped by a player as a result of a supposed injury to his horse which could not be proved, the player could be sanctioned. “A tired horse is not enough to stop the game”.

Agustín Merlos, Pilará Piaget´s 10 goals handicap player, said after the high handicap season that  playing  the ball around was the most common foul sanctioned by the umpires, but “they did not whistle in an uniform way as they  did not agree in their criteria. But I admit it was the best recommendation of the AAP…” –said “Tincho”.

About the new way of hitting the penalties, the forward added that he did not like the rule because “the players lost many 30 or 40 yards penalties, something very uncommon, as a consequence of hitting the ball without the necessary timing. On the other hand, the umpires lost many seconds (or minutes) discussing a foul , but nobody says they make the game boring. The climax of polo and other sports is the goal, and with the new rules the teams miss many occasions to score them. “Paco” de Narváez, Facundo Pieres or Adolfito Cambiaso, just to give some examples, lost many penalties which could have decided a match, but they didn´t…thus the benefits were for the team who made the foul, but not for the one who received it.”

Agustín does not accept the rule about the backhander because “the horses and also the players are most exposed to risks” and added that, as happened with playing  the ball around, the umpires did not sanctioned correctly the “walking”. “We could see many times a player stopped on the ball and the referees did not whistle…”- added Merlos.

According to his opinion, Indios Chapaleufu II, the oldest team of the Argentine high handicap  season,  was the one who adapted best to the new rules and despite having been very doubtfully in sanctioning them in the Tortugas Open, the umpires finished comprising them. He doesn´t agree on installing the Argentine rules all over the world. “Polo is very different in the US or England, thus these countries do not need to implement them”–he said.

 “I don´t like the umpires being so particular about the shouts of the players. Besides me, Juan Martin Nero, Rodrigo de Andrade and other high goals handicap players were suspended and it is not good for polo and the spectators who want to see the best play in the world in Argentina.”

Nevertheless, Agustín , like most of the players, was enthusiastic about the new rules. He said that they made the game more interesting and added that “the players, the umpires and also the AAP authorities are going the right way…there are still things to change, but it takes time.”