Everything you need to know about polo

We explain the rules and lingo ahead of Polo at the Palace

After a smashing debut at Emirates Palace last year, Polo at the Palace is back. And once you’ve read this, you’ll want to bag yourself a ticket.

Polo has come a long way since the sport’s first public match took place in present-day Iran circa 600BC – now it comes with after parties and international DJs.

Back in the day, it was known as the sport of kings and while Britain’s Prince Harry is still partial to a game, it’s no longer exclusive to royalty.

For the second year running, City Events UK is bringing the game to Emirates Palace, where spectators will be served drinks and nibbles by Palace butlers – so even if you’re not a royal, you can still feel regal.

As in 2012, teams from all four corners of the world – Abu Dhabi, London, Milan and Buenos Aires to be precise – will come together on November 22 for two days of action-packed matches.

VIP spectators can mingle over bubbly in hospitality chalets while the commoners can gather in the polo garden on the West Lawn, both of which are next to the polo field. That’s where Coutts Abu Dhabi, Fabergé Team London, Maserati Team Milan and Team Buenos Aires will be battling it out to see who will take home the coveted silver-plated Coutts Polo at the Palace Cup.

City Events UK CEO, Rory Heron, says, ‘This year’s event promises to be a weekend of fast-paced action – both on and off the polo field. With spectators in mind, the rules have been adapted to make a smaller pitch and teams – bringing the crowd closer to the action, while the ‘Palace dash’ (two opponents charge at full speed towards each other to start the game) will also thrill the crowd.

‘What’s more, for the first time, host venue Emirates Palace will provide post-match, poolside entertainment at the Breeze Lounge with DJs setting the tone for a glamorous evening.

‘I’m particularly excited to see who will claim victory this year. Team Buenos Aires, captained by Mohammed Al Habtoor, are eager to defend their title, but they’ll have to fight off some stiff competition. The Coutts Cup could be anyone’s in 2013.’
Coutts Polo at the Palace is at Emirates Palace November 22-23. There are 1,000 tickets available each day. Tickets cost Dhs250 from www.timeouttickets.com.

The rules

To make the match more exciting, the Polo at the Palace tournament will follow Hurlingham Polo Association rules which differ from the usual polo format. Here’s how...

• The object of the game is to move the ball down the field, hitting it through posts at each end (like a football pitch) to score a goal.

• The Palace polo pitch is custom-built, and a third smaller than usual so spectators can get closer to the action.

• Traditionally, a team is made up of four players – but the Polo at the Palace teams will each have three, so they have to cover more ground, faster.

• Play usually begins when the umpire throws the ball on the field at the start of each chukker and after each goal. At the Palace, the game will begin with a ‘Palace dash’ – two opponents racing at top speed from opposite ends of the pitch to get to the ball first.

• A team scores a point when a player hits the ball through the opposing team’s goal post.

• In Palace polo, a 45-yard ring crescents each goal. All goals scored outside this line are worth double the points of those scored from within – encouraging players to take longer, riskier shots making the game more fun to watch.

• Usually, teams change sides after each quarter. In Palace polo teams change half way through to save time.

Get down with the lingo

A polo novice? Never fear – drop in words from our handy A to Z guide and you’ll pass for a pro.

Players’ claims of a foul – usually after an opponent has raised their mallet above their head.

Players can spoil an opponents’ shot as long as their pony (horse) doesn’t make contact with their opponents’ at more than 45 degrees.

Matches are divided into six seven-minute periods, called chukkers. Players ride a new pony for each chukker.

Divot stomping
At half time, spectators replace the divots (holes in the turf) created by the ponies’ hooves.

The back lines of the pitch. Teams change ends each time a goal is scored to compensate for field and wind conditions.

An outdoor polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide if it has a board around it – and 200 yards wide if it doesn’t.

When the ball passes through the goal posts, it’s a goal.

Players are rated on a scale of -2 (beginner) to 10 (the highest standard). A team’s handicap is calculated by adding up the handicaps of each of its players.

The three-minute rest periods between chukkers. Half time is five minutes long.

Are positioned behind the goal posts and signal when a goal has been scored.

When the ball crosses the opponent’s backline without passing through goal posts, the defending team hits it back into play from that point – just like a goal kick in football.

Line of the ball
An imaginary line along which the ball travels. The player closest to it has right of way. ‘Crossing the line’ is the most frequent foul in polo.

The widest part is used to strike the ball – not the ends, as in croquet.

The left hand side of the pony.

The right hand side of the pony.

Number one is the goal striker, two focuses on defence and three is a midfielder, pivoting between offence and defence. Number four is defensive, although not technically a goalie. Positions are fluid because the game is so fast.

Four players in a team.

Two riders may make contact and push each other off the line of the ball to prevent one another from hitting it. Ponies do the pushing, but players can use their body (not elbows).

Stick and balling
Slang for practising a polo swing.

Time out
Called by an umpire, usually following a foul or accident.

Two mounted umpires regulate the game. When they disagree, a ‘thirdman’, or referee, solves the dispute from the sidelines.

The team patron

Rubber boots worn by players in wet weather.

Okay, so we cheated on this one! When the score is tied at the end, the game goes to sudden death. The first team to score wins.

Zone (safety)
The area around the pitch that is out of bounds for spectators.

Horsing around

Want a break from watching the match? There’s plenty more going on
- Check out a range of gems by luxury jewellers Fabergé in the VIP hospitality chalets.

- On both days you can test drive Maserati cars along the Corniche. You’re chaperoned and the road isn’t closed off, but it’s not every day you get to take a sports car for a 20-minute spin for free (it’s included in your ticket).

- Dance the night away Ibiza-style at the Polo Players Pool Party at the Palace’s Breeze Lounge. Top international DJs will be spinning decks from 6pm-midnight on both evenings. Entry is included in ticket price.

- Make a weekend of it and choose the Polo Weekend Package. A two-night stay at Emirates Palace for two people costs Dhs7,600, including breakfast and polo passes.

- An additional Dhs1,750 per person per day (or Dhs3,250 for two days) bags you VIP tickets, giving you access to the VIP hospitality chalet which includes a bubbly reception, all day menu and house beverages.
Email reservations@emiratespalace.ae (02 690 8888).

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