For the first time in the history of polo, instant replay will be used during a 12-goal game Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
When Casablanca plays Las Monjitas at 3 p.m. in the featured afternoon game of the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series, an experimental video review process will be utilized in an effort to reduce the number of incorrect calls made in polo games.
Much like Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League and other pro sports that use instant replay to help eliminate questionable calls, polo is the latest sport to explore the possibility of using it.
In recent years, polo umpires have come under increased scrutiny for missed calls during games at every level of polo.
“This is new territory for us,” said USPA CEO Peter Rizzo. “It’s really nice to attempt this and we are very glad Grand Champions is offering to be a testing ground.
“We have been wanting to do this,” Rizzo said. “We always want to get the call right and by us experimenting with this we will find out if it will be applicable to all levels of polo.”
Melissa Ganzi, newly-elected member of the USPA Board of Directors, has been a driving force in introducing instant replay to help raise the bar in polo. The Flight Options team captain, like many players, would like to see officiating improve.
“I think this is important and it’s going to be special since we are the first club worldwide to have slow motion, instant replay,” Ganzi said. “I know I get frustrated when I play and you don’t want to have that feeling that a bad call determined the game. You want to feel that you had every opportunity to win the game.
“Sometimes you lose a game and have a bad taste in your mouth, that there is that one call that may have had consequences or may have cost you the season,” Ganzi said.
“If you could have done something differently or could have challenged that and gone back to watch the tape with the umpires and hear, ‘you know what, you were right, we missed that call.’ We are always looking for ways to improve the sport.”
Rizzo and Charles Muldoon, executive director of the USPA Umpires LLC, are working with Grand Champions Polo Club to implement the pilot program.
During Saturday’s game, each team will get one challenge that they can use at any time to disagree with a call and ask for an instant replay. The game will be stopped and disputed play will be evaluated by the instant replay judge who will make the final decision on the field.
If the team wins its challenge, they will be allowed to keep their one challenge in the game. If it loses, they will not be able to challenge for the remainder of the game.
“Down the road we would like to implement more than one, but we are starting off with one challenge,” Ganzi said. “It’s a joint venture and we are really excited about it.”
Added Rizzo, “I think it is a great idea. It is different from other sports where the humans are stopped. Polo is unlike other sports, it’s about the horses and how long will they be standing around.
“We really want to do this,” Rizzo said. “We want to get the calls right and if this is the way to get the calls right then I am up for it.”
For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go towww.grandchampionspoloclub.org
I recently had a wonderful interview with Cecil Smith’s son about his friendship with another Texas Cowboy turned polo player, Rube Williams. Would love to share their stories with your readers. The 1933 Lake Forest Match story is a wonderful testament to these once “stick and ball” players.
I am a freelance writer specializing in historic non-fiction.