During this last season, compliance officers from the Office for UK Visa and Immigration visited 15 sponsors. We were aware of the visits and that the Home Office is keen to reduce numbers coming here. I had to go to the UKVI in Sheffield on 7 Oct and was informed that of those non-EEA nationals here on visas, the approximate split was 90% grooms and 10% players and that they did not believe that all of those were either internationally established at the highest level or developing the sport at the highest level in the UK. They said that this was borne out for grooms who by the compliance visits where non-EEA grooms were being used by ancillary businesses associated with polo rather than for the benefit of the game. They conducted 15 such visits this season and currently all those 15 licenses have been suspended. In addition the HPA has been suspended from issuing any endorsements until the new criteria have been agreed. The full email is attached but summarised below. This will be hugely detrimental to the sport here in England and for our own players. It raises many questions as to who qualifies for what and what is meant by what!
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson) : for players and coaches who are internationally established at the highest level and whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of the sport at the highest level in the UK
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting): is for players and coaches who are internationally established at the highest level and/or whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of the sport at the highest level in the UK
- Both Tier 2 and Tier 5 endorsements are subject to the post not being able to be filled by a suitable settled worker (EEA national).
INTENDED HOME OFFICE CHANGES
- Highest level – High and Medium goal polo
- Sponsor – will only be available to teams playing at the highest level (as above).
- Polo players – 5 goals and above, playing in teams at the highest level (as above).
- Grooms – Grooms travelling with non-EEA players in teams playing at the highest level (as above).
CURRENT POSITION – THE HOME OFFICE HAVE STOPPED THE HPA FROM ENDORSING ANY APPLICATIONS UNTIL NEW CRITERIA ARE AGREED.
NEXT STEPS –
- HPA will consult the PPA (Players Association) and other employer bodies within the sport.
- HPA will take legal advice.
- It is clear that the intended changes are detrimental to the sport, to pony welfare, safety of players, and the national and local economy.
- English players will be disadvantaged here and overseas, and the production of English polo ponies will be severely reduced.
The HPA will consolidate a robust challenge to these intended changes.