Around 900 people who are employed from overseas for the English polo season may find it more difficult to come to the UK this year.
The sport brings in grooms and players from countries including Argentina, Australia and New Zealand between March and September, using the Tier 5 temporary UK visa system. But the Government has suspended the rules allowing foreign professionals to come to the UK while the Home Office looks at it again.
If the changes are upheld, it’s likely that most of the overseas players and grooms will not be able to come to the UK for the 2017 season, which involves around 3,000 players and 15,000 ponies.
The top 15 polo teams’ licences to bring in foreign players and grooms were revoked by the Home Office at the end of the 2016 season. The Home Office is understood to want to bring the sport’s ability to employ foreign talent into line with football and other professional sports.
The regulations for professional sports state that those seeking a UK visa must be able to show that they have the special skills required. However, polo uses a mix of professionals and amateurs.
The Hurlingham Polo Association, which met with Home Office officials in October, said that representatives believed many of the non-EU polo players and grooms being brought into the UK did not meet the requirements for working here.
The association’s chief executive, David Woodd, told the Daily Telegraph: “The grooms coming in from overseas are only here for the summer months and are not displacing resident labour; there is not a huge demand for people from the UK to want to be grooms.”
He believes changes to the rules will be “unworkable”, due to the seasonal nature of the sport.