University Polo

SUPA Rules for Universities

Learn about the rules governing SUPA University fixtures

University Rules & Regulations

The rules of the Hurlingham Polo Association will govern all tournaments played.

Specific SUPA rules are as follows.  Please refer to the HPA rules for anything not covered below.

Team Captains

All teams must appoint an official Team Captain to represent the team.  Together with the University President or other official, the Team Captain will take full responsibility for the eligibility of the players’ SUPA Membership, overseas player entries into tournaments, as well as the health, safety and riding competence of the team(s) entered.  **The term “other official” may include the HPA approved team coach.


Players are expected to be well turned out and safe for all SUPA matches and throughout the event.  Full length riding boots recommended.  We do NOT recommend that a combination of chaps/ankle boots and kneepads are worn in any SUPA division.

Knee Pads –  Knee pads are mandatory for playing in SUPA as per HPA rule 2,g(ii).  Players are allowed to warm up prior to a match without knee pads.

Goggles/eye protection – It is recommended that goggles or some form of eye protection are worn by every player.  Please contact our sponsors R.J. Polo who will be glad to help with any advice needed. ** Please note that we are planning to make eye protection mandatory for all players very soon, to bring us into line with affiliated associations in other countries.

Spurs – These are not allowed under any circumstances in any SUPA sanctioned match or Championship and no dispensation will be given.  If you are seen wearing spurs, you will be asked to remove them.

GoPro Cameras – GoPro cameras or any other miniature recording devices are not to be worn or held by any person once they are mounted. (Umpires are allowed to wear them for filming purposes, at their discretion and as arranged between player and Umpire).

Helmets/Hats – SUPA does not demand any style of protective riding hat.  Polo Helmets are recommended, however any riding hat that meets the standards set by the HPA is acceptable.

Horse Hire – We emphasise that horse hire is a matter between individual students or Universities and Horse Hirers.  If you are hiring ponies to play at a SUPA event, the providers are legally required to hold a current REL, (Riding Establishment Licence) to hire out horses for payment or remuneration.  It is your responsibility (not SUPA’s) to ensure that your horse hirer has a current REL or is a member of the APSPH.

Your University official must inform us who they are hiring horses from that academic year.  Also, prior to a tournament, inform SUPA of any changes in horse hirer.

You must make sure that you have horses hired to you, prior to entering a tournament.  Cancellation due to not having horse hire, especially after the draw has been done, does NOT guarantee reimbursement of entry fees or any membership fees.

Coaching from the Sidelines – We are aware of the possibly disruptive nature of side-line instructing and heckling and the effect on some players, especially in the beginners division.  During play the Umpires will determine what is aggressive coaching and what is genuine encouragement and act accordingly.  All players are requested to talk to the Umpire when play has stopped, regarding any issues they may have.  This does not mean that you cannot cheer your team on or that coaches cannot do their jobs.  On the contrary ‘atmosphere make the game’.  However, any coaching instructions or heckling of opposing teams must be deemed to have been made in the spirit of the game of polo.

Any tack or safety issues that may have been missed by the Umpire or player can be indicated from the side-lines, as normal, during play.

Rules of Play – The rules as laid down by the HPA are to be applied, unless SUPA and their officials deem otherwise.  For example, in the Arena, SUPA does not score ‘2 pointers’ from goals hit outside the 25 yard mark in any division with the exception of the OPEN and SAPA divisions.  The rules may be interpreted in a slightly different manner due to the facilities used by the Officials on the day.  Changes and interpretation will be listed on the notice boards before play if made.  This mainly affects beginner and some novice matches.

Decisions are at the discretion of SUPA and any changes made by the Section Manager and Tournament Chairman will be final.

Lessons – You may have lessons at your local polo club under instruction of an HPA approved coach without being a SUPA member.  This is subject to the club or coach acknowledging that Public Liability for all participants is covered under the club or coach Public Liability cover.  SUPA recommends that you obtain membership as soon as possible, in order to enjoy the benefits that come with being a SUPA member.

SUPA Authorised Events – SUPA authorised events must be organised by SUPA/SAPA members in conjunction with a SUPA/HPA recognised venue.  They are run on the same guidelines as a SUPA event.

Paramedics – the venue must have one fully HCPC registered paramedic per pitch/arena.  They need to be in situ approximately 30 minutes prior to the commencement of play and 30 minutes after play has ceased.

Vet – Ideally a vet should be on site, however an ‘on call’ vet will suffice if there are less than 30 teams and the vet is reasonably close by.  However, in the event of an outbreak of an equine infection a vet MUST be on site at all times to check vaccination certificates as part of our horse welfare programme.

Horse Welfare – Horse welfare is paramount and the club horse welfare officer must be in attendance.  The club coach may accept responsibility for this.  This will include spot-checking Passports and checking that vaccinations are up to date.

Officials – Tournament officials should include at least one HPA approved coach on site and an appropriately qualified Umpire.

Horse Hirers – All horse hirers must hold a valid Riding Establishment Licence and or be members of the APSPH.

Players – Players must be SUPA members to participate in any SUPA events.  SUPA accepts NO responsibility for the selection of teams at a SUPA sanctioned event and we recommend that you look at the rules for players below, with regard to handicaps and playing sections.  Ideally a risk assessment should be completed and displayed in a prominent position at each event.  **However, the Club may adapt their own risk assessment.

Membership registrar, SUPA organiser (if any) and University section Manager must be sent details of all players, teams and times.

SAPA members may also play in certain tournaments in the SAPA section.

SUPA Sections of Play

All players will play off the minimum handicap of “S” or the handicap as given by a registered HPA club, if they are a paid up member.  SUPA matches are played open, although handicaps are often used to seed players.  SUPA players with an HPA handicap will play off their outdoor handicap apart from Arena where if no handicap is held a plus 1 is taken.  All players must be fully paid up members of SUPA before they can enter a tournament.  YOU MUST HAVE ORGANISED HORSE HIRE BEOFRE ENTERING A TOURNAMENT.  FAILURE TO ORGANISE HORSE HIRE PRIOR TO ENTRY WILL RESULT IN A FINE OF £200 AND YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF ENTRY FEES OR MEMBERSHIP.

All university players must be current full time or part time students.  Students at universities that do not have clubs can enter individually.  SUPA offers a combined section which allows players to play in teams made up by themselves or the SUPA Section Manager.

Beginner – This section is for players who have just started playing in this current academic year.  If a player has ever played polo in any shape or form in the past they are not eligible to play in this section.  Where possible, the approved University coach/instructor will be responsible for the suitability and safety of these players.

In national events there are usually 4 beginner sections ranging from Beginner 1 for the most able players to beginner 4 for those with less ability.  Beginner teams are 3 players aside in the arena and on grass.

NB In the beginner section in the arena the ball will be thrown in from the centre.

Median – this section is for beginner players who are in their second year of polo and therefore not eligible to play in the beginner section and who do not feel confident enough to move up to Novice. It is around the Beginner 3/4 mark in terms of experience and ONLY players who played in Beginner 3 or 4 the previous year are eligible.  If you played Beginner 1 or 2 the previous year you must move to Novice.  You may only play in Median for your second year of polo, i.e. for one year.  You must then move up to Novice.  Median teams are three per side in the arena and on grass.

Novice – this section is for any player “S” or -2 handicapped players deemed safe by their approved coach/instructor.  You can also play in this section if you are a beginner and your approved coach/instructor feels that you would be better suited playing at this level.

Players may only play in the Novice division for a maximum of three consecutive years, regardless of the section(s) they may have played in within the division.  They must then move up to Lower Intermediates.

Novice teams that have won their individual section must play in a higher section in the next National Tournament.  For example, the team that wins Novice 3 must enter into Novice 2 in the next National Tournament.  The Winning team of Novice 1 must play in Lower Intermediate (or higher) either as a team or as combined players in the next year’s National Tournament.

SUPA appreciates that these Novice rules may be problematic for club presidents to implement, as teams do swap out players between tournaments.  However, we expect to be informed of any good reason for a team to remain in this section well before the closing date for entries.  Any infringements of this rule may result in SUPA reserving the right to place teams in a higher section.  Novice Teams are three aside in the arena.  On grass, Novice sections 1 & 2 will play four aside and sections 3 & 4 will play 3 aside.

Lower Intermediate – this section is for teams comprising of any player up to and including a -1 handicap.

Upper Intermediate – this section is for teams making a maximum of “3” goals in total.

Open – this section is for teams over “3” goals in total.

Combined Section – this section is for players of any handicap, who are unable to join a team elsewhere due to a lack of members, handicap or availability.  Universities may make up their own combined teams, however SUPA will make up and determine the balance of these teams if deemed necessary.  This section maybe split into combined beginner, combined median etc.

Polocrosse – players who play or have played polocrosse will play off the handicap given and assessed by the approved university coach/instructor using the HPA approved scale of:-

A = 1/2, B = 0/1, C= -1, D= -2

Overseas Players – We expect all University Captains and/or coaches/instructors to inform us of any players (overseas or not) that have declared previous experience in polo and to state the handicap equivalent that they have played.  This must translate to HPA grass handicap and will determine the level that they must play in SUPA.

Alumni Players (SAPA) – all former school or university players or full time staff of any educational establishment may be eligible to join SAPA (Schools and Universities Alumni Polo Association).  Members may participate in SAPA polo events which often run alongside SUPA events.

Although SAPA is separate from SUPA at present it appears as a university on the selection menu.

Conditions for Players

Scores – the final score of any match in any section must be agreed by the Umpires, scorers and players from both teams prior to leaving the arena/pitch.  This means that any non-playing team captains or presidents must make their objection known to an official i.e. umpire before the teams leave the arena/pitch.

Late for play – during tournaments any players who are late for the start of their chukka and do not have a valid excuse or have not informed SUPA well beforehand, may result in the ball beingn thrown in and the match being played with one player down.  The late player may not join play until the whistle has been blown for a break in play.

Medical Insurance – SUPA does not provide any level of medical insurance coverage.  The only exception is for International away matches, where SUPA will insure players whilst abroad.  All players must determine and confirm with their University if sports insurance, including polo, is available whilst playing university polo.  All players are advised to seek and secure all risk insurance coverage which includes the sport of polo.  Polo can be a dangerous sport.

Late Entry of Withdrawal of Teams/Players – if a team or player has to withdraw after entries are closed the entry fee will be forfeited and penalties may be affixed.  Please coordinate with the Section Manager to mitigate as early as possible.  Withdrawals on the day of the tournament will also be subject to the entry fee being forfeited and SUPA may impose appropriate fines and substitute a replacement team at your cost.

Withdrawal of Team due to lack of Horse Hire – it is your responsibility to ensure that you have horses before you enter any tournament.  If you cancel after the event has closed due to not having horse hire you will forfeit your entry fee.

Attendance – Teams with commitments that result in them not being able to play on the first day of the tournament are making it increasingly difficult to make a fair draw.  If players cannot attend or make themselves available for the entire duration of the University National Tournament, then they cannot enter that Tournament.  If they enter and then tell us subsequently that they cannot make it, they may forfeit their entry fee.  Please look at the attendance requirements below which maybe subject to change dependent on the number of entries.

Winter Arena Nationals – 4 days, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday for Beginner, Median & Novice.  SAPA 2 days Saturday & Sunday.  Open 2 days Saturday & Sunday.  Lower Intermediates and Upper Intermediates 3 days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Summer Arena Nationals – 3 days Friday, Saturday & Sunday for Beginner, Median, Novice, Lower & Upper Intermediate.  SAPA 2 days, Saturday & Sunday.  Open 2 days, Saturday & Sunday.

Tournament Entries – you can only enter a complete team on our website, place holders are not allowed.  Late substituted players will now be chosen by SUPA from a pool of appropriately handicapped players who are available to play.  In the event of a team, having already entered a tournament, that then inform SUPA one of their players is not able to play, for whatever reason, then SUPA reserve the right to select and appoint the substitute player for that team.

A pool of players of all levels will be created from players who are looking to play in a team.  SUPA will then choose from this pool.  University teams may make players available for this pool; however, SUPA will still retain the right to select the substitutes for teams requiring a substitute player.  The choice will be arbitrary but fair and made by SUPA and no player will be guaranteed a place in any team they may have chosen.

You may still half slot in any of the divisions but you must tell us the names (and handicaps where possible) or both players.

Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs – SUPA operates a zero-tolerance level where any illegal drugs are concerned.  Anyone found selling or distributing any illegal substance during a SUPA event or within the grounds of a SUPA approved venue, may be subject to a life-time ban from playing polo within SUPA.

Alcohol – Playing polo and alcohol do not mix.  Our welfare officer in conjunction with our medical staff and SUPA officials on site will not allow anyone to ride a horse if they suspect them to be under the influence of alcohol (or drugs). We cannot compel individuals to submit to breathalyser tests, however, a refusal of a test if offered, does not mean that the individual will be given the benefit of the doubt and you may not be allowed to play in that match.  Your university will need to find a substitute player or SUPA will choose one of theirs.

Cancellation/Postponement of Event/Tournament

i.In the event of cancellation/Postpone of your tournament due to unforeseen or difficult to predict circumstances such as adverse weather conditions, infectious equine or human diseases or government directives that curtail sporting events.  SUPA will endeavour to give as much notice as possible of cancellation.  SUPA will try to reschedule the same tournament for a later date.  If this is not possible or if there are players who may not be able to attend on the rescheduled dates SUPA will then reimburse entry fee less a £10 admin fee per transaction.

ii.SUPA accept no responsibility and are not liable for the compensation of any charges that maybe incurred by horse hire or coaches/instructors.

iii.SUPA accept no responsibility to reimburse contractors for cancellation/postponement of services due to circumstances listed (i.) above.


SUPA, the HPA and tournament and event organisers or any person acting on their behalf, do not accept liability for loss, damage, accident, injury or illness to competitors, spectators or any person or property whatsoever.

Players/University Team Managers acknowledge and agree that equestrian activities are dangerous and involve risk of serious injury and/or death and/or property damage and that polo is an extremely dangerous and ultra hazardous activity. Players/University Team Managers consciously and voluntarily assume all such risks, dangers and hazards inherent in these activities.

SUPA, the HPA and tournament and event organisers aim to meet the necessary medical, veterinary and health and safety standards but the responsibility for the players, spectators and supporters rests with the individuals both on and off the ground or in/out of the Arena.

A player with a known medical condition must obtain qualified medical approval before participating in any SUPA activity.

Every eventuality cannot be provided for in these rules

It is the Players/University Team Managers responsibility to ensure they are complying with the rules of the competition.