by Denny Geiler, Governor at Large
The meeting was held in West Palm Beach from Wednesday to Saturday and culminated with the US Open held at International Polo Club. It was won by Orchard Hill in overtime with an incredible neck shot by Facundo Pierres. They defeated Dubai which was led by Adolfo Cambiaso. Those two individuals and their teams are always the cream of the Open. You can see an excellent replay of the Open along with side stories on NBC Sports Network on Saturday, April 30, 2016.
These meetings are incredibly informative. It is amazing how the USPA has grown, the number of services that are now provided to its membership and the dedication of the staff. For me, the other amazing thing is the resumes of the volunteers. I am always impressed that men and women who are so successful in their business lives take the time to help improve our great sport of polo. The good news is that the board voted to increase the reimbursement for club delegates who attend the meeting to $750.00 which should encourage more participation.
At the Polo Training Foundation dinner on Friday night Ken Barry and Joel Baker received an award for the best American horse played in the Argentine Open. Chocolate is presently owned by Adolfo Cambiaso and has earned many best playing polo awards. No doubt Chocolate will be entered in the Polo Hall of Fame. Joel also received honorable mention as the coach for the FIP team.
Skee Johnson comes from a multi-generational polo family. He is working with PTF and the USPA to donate approximately 80 acres of his polo farm in West Palm Beach to the PTF. It will be operated as a regional polo center by the Polo Development LLC of the USPA.
Financially, Global Licensing, formerly known as USPA Properties, has grown the USPA assets to $120 million. Worldwide sales have grown to over $1 billion. The future seems more secure as the franchisees are switching from selling the product through department stores to opening free standing USPA brand stores. There are over 275 free standing stores in India.
As a member of the finance committee I can report that the Loan Program has been approved. It will make loan funds available to polo clubs which need funds to acquire polo properties. The terms require a 50% investment by the club. $10 million has been ear marked for the program. The most pressing issue for the finance committee is a decision about modifying the current formula of spending 40% of the GL net profit and investing 60%. The goal was to be self-supporting by 2022. Now that we have a strong financial base we are looking at increasing the spend portion of the formula to meet the demand of the membership. This will move the achievement of self-supporting to 2028.
Rodney Fragodt (California Polo) has said that the PDI grant amounts should be increased and many people agreed. As chairman of the PDI Committee I requested the board to increase the PDI budge by 70% starting in 2017. The demand for PDI grants has been increasing 30% a year and yet the funding was growing at a 6% pace. I’m happy to report that the Board agreed. This will allow the PDI program to meet the increasing demand and increase the average dollar amount of the grant. PDI clubs generate more USPA memberships than any other program.
The Certified Polo Instructor program is now in full swing thanks to the help of Corky Lindfoot, Eric Wright and Tom Goodspeed. Heather Perkins of the Orange County Polo Club was one of the first instructors to receive that certification. Instructors at all our clubs should seriously consider entering the program. That certification should help in marketing your polo school and increase the number of referrals from the USPA.
The Constitution Committee has hired an Illinois law firm (the state of origin for the USPA) to combine our constitution with our by-Laws to make it easier to read. They will also be incorporating new changes to bring us into compliance with current Illinois Not-For-Profit corporation law.
Chuck Stanislaski (California Polo Club and Santa Barbara Polo Club) is the chairman of the Audit Committee. This is a new committee that not only works with the accountants on the annual audit but investigates any matters involving use of USPA money.
The umpire program continues to grow as the PUMP 6 and PUMP 8 programs bring professional umpires into lower goal games. In addition the USPA is now providing professional umpires to the Interscholastic/Intercollegiate tournament games and the National Tournament Series for young players. Each circuit is now granted umpire reimbursement funds which are divided up among the clubs.
The USPA is considering funding Chucker TV starting in 2017. It is a website that livestreams polo games on both coasts. The program was developed and funded by a private party. If you watched the Open Finals on Chucker TV the coverage was amazing. I watched it on my iPad while waiting for a plane. 6 cameras, helmet cams on the umpires and drones made the program a pleasure to watch. The extra camera angles certainly made the program educational as well as entertaining. The Umpire LLC uses Chucker TV video along with Dart Fish applications in their reviews for training umpires.
The USPA will be hiring a law firm that specializes in advising the NFL, NHL, NBA and other professional sports to determine the best way to organize high goal polo. The issue is whether our current high goal program is the best way to publicize our sport. They will investigate ways to compensate the team owners, the venue owners and the USPA to make a more TV friendly entertainment. They may suggest creating a high goal series similar to professional league competition.
Polo Skilz is a USPA website that has over 250 educational videos. Many of them were developed by high goal professionals, coaches and trainers from our Pacific Circuit. It was recently renovated under the moniker of Polo Skilz 2. Take a look at it.
In conclusion, I suggest that you attend one of the Board of Governors meetings. You will be amazed at the complexity of our organization and the incredible talent that is working so hard to improve our sport. If you are a club delegate, $750.00 of your travel costs will be reimbursed by the USPA.