The Townsend Cup

The governing bodies of polo inAmerica and England have selected Great Meadow to host the world championshipof arena polo: The Townsend International Indoor Challenge Cup. The match willbe held on the evening of September 12, 2008 under the lights of the GreatMeadow stadium in the Plains, Virginia, with all the Governors of the US PoloAssociation in attendance. As the highest-level international arena tournamentin which each team formally represents their countries, the Townsend is theworld series of stadium polo. It is the first time official American and Britishteams, on the grass or in the arena, have met under the aegis of theirrespective polo associations in more than a decade.

First unveiled in 1923, the USand English “all star” teams played before standing-room-only crowds at theSquadron ‘A’ Armory in Manhattan. The international press treated it as one ofthe biggest eventsLive in the world of polo. The historic matches for this trophy,and the planning behind them, stimulated arena polo in the American

military and as intercollegiatecompetition, helping grow all aspects of the sport, as well as defining theconcept of  tadium play for publicpresentation. In the words of the American team captain: “nothing was ever donethat brought the game before the public as much as arranging for thatInternational match, for since then the game has grown steadily all over the country.”John R. Townsend – the trophy’s namesake and donor – was an established socialfigure in New York City, a consummate horseman and Master of Foxhounds (MFH) ofthe Orange County Hunt in

Virginia, where he kept a farm in_e Plains. According to the New York Times, Townsend was “one of the leadingadvocates of indoor polo” in America. He was “instrumental in bringing theEnglish team to this country” for the world championship and even convinced hisfriend William Skinker to become Virginia’s first registered polo player. Adecade after it was first played, the President of the Indoor Polo Association,reflecting on the positive

impact of the 1923 InternationalChallenge Cup and regretting that it had not been repeated, observed that, “thereis no doubt but that the return of an English team to these shores… would dothe indoor game an immense amount of good.” Unfortunately, John Townsend passedaway only months after the inaugural event and the trophy has only been playedfor twice in eighty-five years.

Last winter RoderickVere Nicoll, publisher of Hurlingham Polo Magazine, challenged the Americanproponents of stadium polo at Great Meadow and the US Polo Association ArenaCommittee to put _e Townsend in play again, both in honor of the past and topromote their version of intense, audience-oriented stadium polo. Following GreatMeadow’s offer to host _e Townsend, David Woodd, Chief Executive of theHurlingham Polo Association, announced that the English would send their bestindoor team to compete for The Townsend during the USPA Governors Meetings andthe Centennial of Polo in Virginia celebration in September 2008.

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