Polo, also known as the Sport of Kings, is surrounded by an interesting economic situation. Despite the high costs of the sport, the limited return on investment, and the lack of media attention, polo continues to increase in popularity.
The International Polo Club, or IPC, is a premier club in Palm Beach, Florida. They’ve seen a 185 percent increase in their box office revenue for their polo events in just a few years, and their ticket sales revenue reached $245,420 in 2015. They also gained over 100 members in just three years.
John Wash, the IPC’s president, wants the club to be the most popular destination in South Florida for polo. His goal is to create new enthusiasm for their Sunday tournaments, and he’s been successful. The Sunday brunch and polo events started selling out almost every weekend. They sell grandstand seating and general admission lawn seats.
Polo exists in over 75 countries, but IPC is one of the world’s leading polo facilities. The IPC’s increasing memberships and ticket sales show that the sport is growing. Wash claims that in a few years, the IPC will be the polo epicenter of the world, overtaking the historical clubs in South America and Europe.
Although the IPC and similar polo clubs have seen an increase in interest from players and spectators, it’s an expensive sport to manage. A patron, or an amateur player who puts together a high-goal team for a season, can spend up to $3 million just for the winter season. Polo costs include the players’ salaries, living expenses, and equipment costs. Patrons also have to pay for the polo horses, barn fees, vets, trainers, and groomers. Every polo match requires eight to 10 polo ponies, with a cost of about $45,000 per horse.
However, even with the steep costs, polo is mostly a sport played for fun. Sponsorship is rare, and when sponsors do become involved, they don’t pay much. Almost everyone involved in the world of polo is there because they love the sport, not because they’re looking for a return on investment. Patrons can spend millions on a team for a season and receive little of that money back, but they continue to participate in the sport anyway.
The costs are high, and the players don’t make much money. However, everyone involved, from the players to the spectators, accept the steep costs because of their love for polo.