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Cowdray An Interview with an Umpire

An interview with Ben Turner

Polo Umpire


Polo is a game that owes much of its appeal to the fact it should be played not only within its rules bit also within the spirit of the game. While the spirit of fair play rests with the players, those chosen to impart justice on the field hold a unique responsibility to protect the game itself and the rules by which it is governed. Professional Umpire Ben Turner talks us through the challenges of umpiring a major tournament as well as his enduring love of the game.


“My Father was involved with Rhinefield Polo Club in the New Forest where he became the Polo Manager for a while. I used to go to polo with him and this is when I first decided I wanted to play”, recalls Ben of his early years in polo. Having reached 4 goals as a Professional Player, Ben decided his playing career was reaching its end. Already a member of the HPA Pro Umpire group, the transition to a full-time career as an umpire was straight forward and a natural progression for Ben.

“As my career has evolved, I’ve really enjoyed umpiring all levels of polo, including to the very highest. I call Cowdray Park my home club, so I feel my favourite tournament to umpire has to be the Gold Cup.” As with professional polo players, Ben and his fellow umpires must remain match fit. With many umpires travelling abroad for games in other countries during the winter months, they maintain a level of mental and physical match fitness throughout the year. “Within our own season I am generally riding enough to stay match fit. On the ‘big game’ days, I generally try not to think about it too much, I start to focus once I arrive at the field which is usually at least an hour before the game. This is when I do my stretching exercises and start to get my game head on.”


Polo is a notoriously difficult game to umpire, and the importance of winning increases as significant financial implications come into play. Umpiring often comes down to judging if play is dangerous and who was involved, with players sometimes genuinely believing it was the opposition. Umpires have to be thick skinned and well read on the complex rules of polo as a result.

“We have a very high level of umpiring in the UK. From low to high goal, we have a very professional, conscientious group of umpires that bring a standard of umpiring that is recognised across the world of polo” reflects Ben as he considered the role of polo umpires in the UK in upholding the standards of the game. Ultimately it is the players who decide if a game is going to be a clean, high tempo match. A game where the teams want to play a good, open game of polo is a blessing for the umpire. “Where players are being positive and respecting the rules, us umpires don’t have to intervene much at all.”


“The biggest improvement to umpiring within my career would be ‘professional’ umpires. The days where players had to begrudgingly umpire after losing the previous game, are thankfully gone. Since then, VAR, radios and the communication between the umpires on field, as well as the 3rd man significantly help towards us making the right decisions (most of the time)”. While the sport is not awash with players wanting to become umpires once they’ve hung up their playing boots, Ben feels positive the high standard of umpiring that has been set in the UK will continue with those who do choose to take up the role.