Patterson’s game suspension and the end results
By Alex Webbe
Sunday’s 21-11 win in the 2015 Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup for the British Open at Cowdray Park Polo Club brought to question the rule that had Talandracas 4-goaler Ali Patterson ejected from the game in the middle of the second chukker for the balance of the match. The action, in response to a dangerous riding call that endangered the safety of an opposing horse and player, delivered the death blow to the Talandracas (Edouard Carmignac, Polito Pieres, Sapo Caset and Ali Patterson) team, as they were unable to fairly compete playing three players against Zacara’s (Juan Martin Nero, Lyndon Lea, Rodrigo Andrade and Jack Hyde) four.
The action on the field resulted in the fall of Zacara team captain Lyndon Lea and his mount, and a delay in the game while the punishment was decided upon. The function of Patterson in the game is well-known. A member of last year’s Gold Cup winning Dubai polo team, Patterson gets top marks for marking opposing players. Perhaps a job he did a little too enthusiastically in this particular case.
The fact that the rule that sends a player off of the field due to a serious infraction is further obfuscated because there is no international uniformity in the ruling. The rule is written and applied differently in England, the United States and Argentina.
The effect the match was taking on the Talandracas (who were forced to press their mounts to cover an additional 25% of the ground) was obvious, with Talandracas giving up little resistance from the fifth chukker on. The lack of competition did little, however, to influence the fervor of the Zacara team who continued to pour it on.
Additional harmful to the game was the fact that the game was a Sunday featured match that had to watch the Zacara team slowly take control of the game (Talandracas was leading 5-1 at the time of the infraction) and trounce the under-manned Talandracas team by ten goals, 21-11.
The game of polo is a dangerous one, of that there is no doubt, but the severity of the game long ejection does more than punish the fouling player, it puts an undue burden on the horses of the remaining team players, a factor that must be considered.
Should the player have been suspended for the balance of the chukker? For a full chukker? Should he be sidelined for the balance of the game but allowed a substitution? These are all possibilities that should be considered as not only the welfare of the penalized team’s horses should be considered, the public face of the game of polo itself is under scrutiny.
It is also interesting to note that in a game that at one time considered sportsmanship as an ingredient in determining the individual handicap, Zacara continued to race up and down the field, scoring goal after goal, even after the Talandracas players failed to give pursuit.
This is not the glorious spectacle that is expected from a publicly promoted British Open contest.
The ejection of Patterson from the game ended any chance Talandracas had of winning the match, and the fact that they were expected to compete against a four man team four and-one-half chukkers, doubling up or tripling up on their horses serves as only a further punishment for the infraction committed by a single player.
I feel certain that the Hurlingham Polo Association will revisit the severity of the punishment meted out and make the necessary adjustments. Additionally, after reviewing the gray and subjective rules governing expulsion for the duration of the game, I feel certain that there will be more explicit conditions added to the rules.