Updated: Feb 9, 2020
The two most commonly confused concepts in the game of polo are the Line of the Ball (LOB) and the established players’, Right of Way (ROW) which is the most common cause for a whistle.
The reason for the confusion is clear...The two quite different concepts work in very closely together. The LOB is the direction in which the ball is travelling; it may have been hit, kicked or bounced off a board, a horse, or a player(!). However each change of direction, creates a new LOB in the direction of which it is travelling. Once this line is created, the player who wants to establish possession of that ball must be the quickest player who can safely establish themself on the line of the ball. Once established, this player then gains the ROW and must be allowed precedence above all other players on the field [more about this tactic to establish the line in a later post, so for now, back to the LOB & ROW] ….
So, how did I foul??
Crossing the LOB, in itself, does not cause a foul. The following diagram shows four examples of where it may be safe to cross the LOB or make a safe play at the ball.... and also more importantly, how players frequently commit the foul described as ‘crossing’, which is essentially, impeaching on an established players’ ROW.
Example 1: This shows the blue player established on the LOB. This player and his ROW (indicated with the green arrow) takes precedence over all other players. The white player is able to make a safe play at the ball from his position, keeping enough room for the blue player to run, uninhibited in the direction of play along his ROW therefore has not created any foul.
Example 2: This shows the blue player, again, established on the LOB and therefore awarding himself the ROW and precedence over all other players. However, in this play, the white player has made a successful play at the ball and changed the direction and therefore the LOB with a nearside backhand, and so at no point does s/he cross the LOB. However, this player has still caused a dangerous foul. They have infringed on the blue players ROW, which was established before they made their play at the ball and caused a foul without crossing the line.
Example 3: This shows the white player crossing the line of the ball, which as previously discussed does not create any foul unless they have impinged the oppositions ROW. Therefore, with a safe distance between the two players, there is no foul and the green line depicts the safe passage along the blue players ROW with no infringement.
Example 4: This shows the white player simply crossing the blue player and crossing the line and impeding the ROW of the established blue player therefore, causing another dangerous foul.
Confused? Yes, of course you are! AND it’s even more confusing when the LOB changes every few seconds and therefore so does the ROW. It is a tough job for the umpires to keep up with the play, but for the safety of players and, of course, for the ponies we need these practical rules in place to keep it fun for all!
Up next, safely riding off…