Juan Zavalía Paunero, the man behind the XPL’s vision
Where did you get your inspiration to develop such a model for the Xtreme Polo League?
The idea of a league is not new and has been around for a while. I think that my experience in Formula One allowed me to look at the project from a different angle but I must give a lot of the credit to the Argentine Polo Association as well as to Javier Tanoira for their support and vision and prior efforts.
What long-term goals do you have?
I believe that polo is a true spectator sport with all the fire elements that make for a unique viewer experience when combined with today’s technologies. Our goal is for polo to become a popular sport with a global audience, and to be a fun and thrilling show to watch on television. In the short term, we want to see the reception of the audience and the polo ecosystem, since it is important to have the endorsement of all our stakeholders. We plan on introducing 2 other teams next year and reach 12 teams by 2022, with 10 annual stages around the world including the final that will always be in Argentina, and will eventually become the Argentine Superbowl.
Is this new league replacing the Triple Crown?
No way. The Triple Crown are the most important polo championships. They are managed by the AAP and these tournaments are the source of income for the AAP to promote the sport in Argentina, which is its main goal as a non-profit organization. The XPL is a private company for profit, with cash distributions to the teams as well as certain economic rights that will allow Teams to earn and finance, repectively, part (and eventually all) of its operating costs. This is where a for-profit entity like the XPL fills the gap that the associations do not handle as they are exclusively mandated to serve as a sport accelerator within their respective jurisdictions.
How are players selected to play?
The teams have a franchise model. In this sense, each franchise functions as a for-profit company. The players are chosen by each franchise holder and bilaterally reach an agreement with the players subject to contract and minimum wage regulations. Franchises can be owned by a physical person or a legal entity.
The XPL will follow a “traveling circus” model more similar to the Formula 1.
Will the XPL follow the same rules as the Triple Crown?
Rule changes have been made so that they are easier to understand for people who are not from polo. The XPL will be a very good test-bed to try new things that some associations may or may not choose to implement. For example, teams will no longer change sides after each goal, but at the beginning of each chukker, which will start with a throw-in from midfield. After each goal the other team will kick-off from the 40 yard mark and there will be a semicircular line at the 80 yard line and goals from behind that line will count double. Finally, it will be played with a handicap restriction between (28 to 34) and we will limit the number of horses that each player can take to each game, among other low impact rules. The aim, overall, is to achieve a shortening of dead times and facilitating the understanding of the game for the audience that is not polo savvy.
Could you explain in detail how this franchise system works in the world of sports?
Sports franchises are brands that in addition to seeking sports results try to obtain benefits as a company. This system works successfully in prestigious leagues such as the NBA, NFL or F1. Each team has a participation in the results of the company and has a power of decision on the format of the League championship. The XPL is a League for the Teams and by the Teams