Opinions are varied among polo aﬁcionados as to who is best qualiﬁed to be a good polo umpire. In Argentina, for many years high-goal players who were also competing in the tour- nament umpired the Open Championship. Although in theory this practice may have ﬂaws, in practice it worked fairly well. The advantage was that individuals accustomed to the pace of Open Championship polo controlled the games; it is a world of difference to play and ofﬁciate at 20-goal level compared to 30-plus goal level. The biggest disadvantage was that some players were pressured to umpire critical games, the result of which might affect their own team chances in the tournament.
The survey’s results suggest that high-handicap players prefer their peers to be umpires. The voters were also asked to explain what they thought were the prime characteristics for an umpire. The overwhelming opinion was that the two most important qualities were absolute knowledge of the rules of polo and the capacity to exude and exercise authority.
There have been examples of excellent umpires who were low-handicap players. José “Pepe” Resano was an icon in Argentina and much sought after as an umpire ; his handicap was a modest 2 goals. No player — high handicap or beginner — ever dared to question his judgment. “Don Pepe” was a man of absolute integrity and knew the rulebook to a fault. Santiago “Diego” Cavanagh, Jr., was a 6-goal player in the 1930s who was thought to be the best umpire of his times. Diego Cavanagh ofﬁciated in the Olympic Games and at Meadow Brook in the series for the Cup of the Americas.
Australia’s Peter Roberts was a non-playing umpire who rose to international status. Ini- tially, Mr. Roberts was viewed with reluctance and had to earn the players’ respect, which he did by learning the rules of the game by heart and by ofﬁciating games with authority and calm manners. His reputation is such that he is considered the benchmark for all Australian umpires.
Tom Skene, a cousin of the celebrated Bob Skene, was an umpire for more than a quar- ter of a century. In is own time, like José Resano in Argentine, Tom Skene never faced abuse or deﬁance. The New South Wales Polo Association requested that he write a report on umpir- ing : “Players do not necessarily make good umpires, and this includes high-goal players. It is a test of their integrity and an unfair one to put them in the position of umpiring , not least in the semi-ﬁnals of tournaments they are contesting against their deadliest rivals.”