XPL Commissioner Justo Saavedra on adapting the rules of polo, attracting a wider audience, and conquering TV
Professional polo player since 1986. He has won countless tournaments around the world, having competed in Switzerland, Peru, Chile, France, Italy, UK, USA, Australia, and Argentina. He formed part of Emerging Polo Team from 1993 to 2015; as well as playing professionally on the team, he also took on the role of manager, as was the case in 2002, when Emerging won the prestigious Queen’s Cup at Guards Polo Club, in England. Saavedra now forms part of the XPL as Commissioner responsible for sporting and disciplinary matters.
Do you see this role as XPL Commissioner as a challenge? Absolutely! It is a great responsibility to take on such an important role in a league where the biggest polo stars in the world compete, and where there are cash prizes up for grabs!
What is your view on the current state of polo, and how do you think the XPL can improve the sport? The sport has been demanding changes for a while now, and a different and friendlier format for television can generate innovation on every stage, both traditional and new. This is the future.
What can we expect for the first half of 2020, and will there be any changes made from the first edition of the XPL in 2019? We are now going to host two shorter tournaments, in which four teams will compete. We will head to the US and England for the first time; our expectations are high, as they are the two most important polo destinations in the world outside of Argentina. It will be a good opportunity for associations to see the new rules played on their home turf.
Have you set yourself short, medium, and long term goals in your role as XPL Commissioner? My goals are all medium term. The objective is to attract twelve teams/franchises to form part of the XPL. It is very important that our format doesn’t clash with the traditional polo circuit, where the patron is on the field, but that both coexist.
Do you think that the XPL can set a precedent in the sport and attract a new public? In what way? I think that the best way to reach new spectators is through television, something which has always been an objective in polo. With the best players competing, and by adapting the rules in order to make the game more attractive for a newcomer, I think that a wider audience will get into polo, and that will inevitably attract sponsors and bring in funds to make the league increasingly competitive.