The ladies at Cirencester Park swing into the 2015 polo season in style

The ladies at Cirencester Park swing into the 2015 polo season in style

By Victoria Elsbury-Legg

It would seem there are more changes afoot at Cirencester Polo Club in the 2015 season, not least as I mentioned in my article in the October issue of the Hurlingham Magazine, the start of a new irrigation programme over the current winter months which has been planned for twenty five years.  At the oldest club in England where tradition and family has been of huge importance since its conception in 1894 changes might have been made, with more on the way, but these changes seem to have been embraced to sit comfortably amongst the history of the converted Army chicken shed which forms the Tea Rooms at the very heart of the club. 

Five years ago the Cirencester Polo Academy was created, run by Martin Ffrench Blake who also gives lessons, with ponies available for hire it’s proved a great way to encourage new players to take up the sport and become a part of the club.  This year, Cirencester Park celebrated not only its 120th birthday year, but also the reinvention of The Warwickshire Cup.  Formulated from the basis of it being only a week long in duration, the tournament has been turned into a high profile battle between sixteen players in four high goal teams competing in semis and finals.  

Another welcome addition to the Fixtures List three years ago has been the ladies only tournament, which was won by Team Stobart in 2012 & 2013 and Wild Orchid in 2014, headed up by Nina Clarkin.  In the 2015 season even greater things are in store for those ladies who participate in these matches, as it has been announced that ‘Cirencester International Ladies Tournament will now be a part of the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) League and will introduce the ladies handicap system.’  

Founder of the WCT (which in the upcoming season will be heading into its tenth year) and America’s top female player Sunny Hale is ‘very glad to have Cirencester on board’ and part of an international polo league which hosts officially recognised tournaments throughout the USA and in Argentina, Canada, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, and now, from Tuesday 21st – Sunday 26th July 2015, in England.  This will also be another first for English ladies polo as the women’s handicapping system will be used by the players, meaning it will be a 12 – 18 goal tournament.  For those who do not hold WCT handicaps, outdoor handicaps can be converted using the following formula:  

-2 goals  = 0 goals:  -1 goals = 1 goals:  0 goals  = 3 goals:  1 goal  = 4 goals:  2 goals  = 5 goals:  3 goals = 8 goals:  4 goals = 9 goals:  5 goals = 10 goals. 

As a key figure in the expansion of women’s polo at the club, Cirencester’s Executive Polo Manager Tim Keyte is keen to point out that ‘having been involved with umpiring women’s polo for the past seven years or so, I am excited that Cirencester is becoming a prominent part of women’s polo internationally and at the forefront of the game in the UK.’

Given its date in the English polo season, it looks certain that this tournament organised by Tim Keyte and Assistant Polo Manager Kim Croutear will attract not only home crowds, but also overseas visitors who can combine both the inaugural English matches of the Women’s Championship Tournament during the 2015 Cirencester International Ladies Tournament, with the Audi International at Guards and the Jaeger Le Coultre Gold Cup Final at Cowdray.