Controversy surrounding the new HPA helmet rule marked the first week of the U.K. high goal season. The new rule, which mandates the use of helmets that have been certified to EU safety standards at all tournaments played under HPA rules, came into force in the U.K. on 1. January 2018. The new rule aligns polo with other equestrian sports and is expected to reduce the number and severity of serious injuries and concussions.

While polo players in the U.K. have largely accepted the new rule and the need for safer polo helmets, causing a surge in demand for new helmets during the months leading up to the summer season, three high goal players (Adolfo Cambiaso, Christian ‘Magoo’ Laprida, and Rob Jornayvaz) caused controversy by refusing to wear HPA approved helmets in the second match of the Prince of Wales 22 goal tournament between Valiente and Monterosso at the Royal Country of Berkshire Polo Club (RCBPC) on 12 May.

Despite prior warning by the HPA that players would be sent off for non-compliance, and despite an attempted intervention by the RCBPC, the match was completed with the three players wearing uncertified helmets. Unsurprisingly, a heated debate followed on social media.

Other high goal players accepted the new rule (Photo: Pelon receiving his new HPA approved polo helmet from Michael Husted, owner of Performance Polo) and were seen playing in their new helmets in the first matches of the high goal season. The three players of the Valiente team settled their differences with the HPA before the team’s second match of the tournament against Emlor on 16 May, all playing the match in compliant helmets.

Update May 16:
While the controversy has died down, the debacle highlights what appears to be a lack of coordination between the HPA, the USPA and the AAP as well as inadequate communication with the visiting high goal players.