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Polo and Philanthropy: How the Sport Is Used to Raise Money for Good Causes

Polo is a trendy sport in which a lot of money is involved. On the site, you can see bookmakers offering bets on polo competitions. However, sport is not always used as a means of earning money. Sometimes, a match helps raise money for charity and help those in need. And polo is no exception. Let’s find out how the sport of aristocrats was used for philanthropic purposes.

History of Polo

Horse polo was originally called chovgan. This game originated around the middle of the first millennium AD (although there is evidence that variations of the game of polo existed even before our era) in the territory of Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and neighboring Turkic countries. It is known that the first polo tournaments took place in Persia more than 2,500 years ago, making this sport one of the oldest in history.

Initially, various tribes in Central Asia played chovgan, but the military soon became interested in this sport. Kings and emperors of various countries, such as China, Persia, India, Iran, and Mongolia, believed polo could be an excellent training ground for cavalry. So, this sport began to be supported by influential and wealthy people, and polo became the game of kings.

To prevent the cavalry from losing their grip while the army moved from camp to camp or stood idle waiting for the next battle, the kings organized large-scale tournaments in which hundreds of military personnel participated. Boys, including those of royal blood, learned to play polo from childhood to demonstrate their equestrian skills on the battlefield and in championships. For example, it is known that the Shah of Iran, Shapur II (who lived in the 3rd–4th centuries AD), mastered polo at the age of seven and patronized this sport all his life. In the 5th century AD, Emperor Theodosius II obliged all military personnel in Constantinople to play polo.

The British played the most significant role in the spread and development of equestrian polo in Europe. British cavalrymen saw polo ponies at an exhibition in India in 1862 and became interested in the sport. First, they created the first polo club in the Indian city of Silchar, and then in 1869, they held the first competitions among cavalrymen in England. The British decided to call Chovgan horse polo and developed the modern rules of the game. Thanks to Great Britain, equestrian polo even became part of the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, when five teams from three countries participated in the competition.

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Polo Today

A polo team consists of four players. The first number is the key attacker. Their main task is to score the ball into the opponent’s goal. The second number helps the attacker create a scoring chance, his goal is to make the right pass. The third number is called the leading strategist of the game: they must see the enemy’s weaknesses and help the team play correctly. Such athletes are often compared to chess players. The fourth number is a defender who must remove danger from his own team’s goal. Members of the same team can be both men and women.

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The game involves a ball weighing approximately 113 g and clubs made from bamboo or willow twigs. The match consists of periods called chakka. Each chakka officially lasts seven minutes, but due to pauses in play that occur after a goal is scored or fouls noticed by the referee, the period can last significantly longer. Typically, each match has six periods, although sometimes four or eight chakkas are played.

The dimensions of the equestrian polo field are about 274 m in length and 146 m in width. This is comparable to the area of 5-6 football fields. The goal is two posts six meters apart in the center of the end lines of the field. After each goal is scored, the teams change goals.

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Charity and Philanthropy

Polo attracts not only the wealthy and aristocratic but also generous people. Many charity matches are held annually, the proceeds of which support orphans, people suffering from cancer, refugees, and victims of war.

Particularly famous are the charity matches in which the royal family in Britain participated. Every year, Prince Charles and his sons took part in the games. The British monarch no longer plays due to an elbow injury, but the princes have not abandoned charity. London’s Billingbear Polo Club hosted the traditional King Power charity equestrian polo tournament, supported by the royal family. It is the most famous event but far from the only one.

Of course, the philanthropic spirit of polo is not limited to the United Kingdom, with many other countries maintaining the tradition. For example, you can read about well-known charity polo matches in Nigeria.


Polo is an outstanding sport that is very different from other disciplines. In Britain, polo is strongly associated with charity. The amount of donations for charity raised at the games with the participation of Prince Charles exceeded 12 million pounds sterling. In other countries, the sport is also used to raise funds to help those in need.


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