Bicycle Polo is a team sport, invented in County Wicklow, Ireland, in 1891 by retired cyclist, Richard J. Mecredy. The sport is similar to traditional polo, except that bicycles are used instead of horses. The hardcourt game has seen a sharp spike in interest as of 2007 and new teams are sprouting up across the world. Bicycle Polo can now be accounted for in the USA, Ireland, France, India, Germany, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka,Indonesia, Hungary, Australia, Sweden, England, Argentina, Italy, and Canada.
The Traditional game
Traditional Bicycle Polo is played in a rectangular grass field, 150 meters by 100 meters officially, unofficially whatever field is big enough. Moreover, official dimensions can vary between 120 and 150 meters in length on 80 to 100 meters in width. The ball used is of circumference 12-15 inches and the mallet is of length 1 meter.
There are 6 members (7 in France) in a team of which 4 (5 in France) are on field at a time. The other two are used as substitutes. International matches are played for a duration of 30 minutes divided into periods of 7.5 minutes each called as a chukkar. Extra time can be used to determine the winner in case the scores are tied at normal time.
If a deliberate foul is committed at the vicinity of the goal, the team that is fouled is automatically given a goal. Less severe fouls are awarded 15 metre and 25 metre free hits. In the event of deliberate fouls or dangerous fouls, the umpire can issue the Yellow card (warning) and in case of repeated or severe fouls the Red card (ejection). The ejected player can be replaced by a substitute after the end of the current chukkar if the umpire allows it.
The Hardcourt game
In recent years, an alternate form of the game known as "Hardcourt Bike Polo" or "Urban Bike Polo" has grown in popularity. In this less formal variation, teams composed of three to five players compete on tennis courts, street hockey rinks, or whatever other surfaces are available. The rules vary slightly by city.
Generally this is a faster game with 3 members on a team, no substitutions, and all members are on the court at all times. A Street Hockey ball is used and matches are played until one team scores 5 points, without playing chukkars. During tournament play a time limit, such as 10 minutes, may be used to maximize the number of tournament rounds possible during the day.
There are three core rules of play:
In the case of a 'foot down' or 'dab' (touching the ground with one's foot) the player must "tap out" by riding to mid-court and hitting a designated area with their mallet. There is usually a tap-out located on either side of the court.
In order to score, the offensive player must hit the ball across the goal line using the narrow end of the mallet - this is called a "shot" or "hit" - hitting the ball across the goal line with the wide end of the mallet is called a "shuffle".
When your team scores a goal, you wait back in your end for the other team (player or ball, whichever comes first) to cross half before engaging in play again.
There are three contact rules: body on body, bike on bike and mallet on mallet.
An etiquette rule is that you play others as hard as they play you.
The game was invented by an Irishman, Richard J. Mecredy, in 1891. That same year the first cycle polo match was played between The Scalp and the Ohne Hast C.C.. Towards the end of the 19th century the game reached Great Britain, USA and France. The first international match was played between Ireland and England in 1901. Cycle polo was a demonstration sport at the 1908 London Olympics with Ireland winning the gold, beating Germany.
The sport reached its peak of popularity in Great Britain during the 1930s with the introduction of the regional leagues. Cycle polo also flourished in France during this period with the establishment of the French league. Internationals between France and Great Britain were held regularly. However the Second World War marked the beginning of the demise of cycle polo in Britain. The sport managed to hang on in France though, with league championships held regularly till today.
The 1980s saw the rise of two new powers in cycle polo, India and USA. The Cycle Polo Association of India was officially created in 1966 and the Bicycle Polo Association of America was created in 1994. International cycle polo matches staged a comeback in the 1990s with the first world championship organized in 1996 in the USA. Teams from India, USA and Canada participated with India winning the title. The next championship was held in 1999 in Vancouver, Canada which was also won by India. From then on, the championship became a regular event held every year.
The 2004 championship was won by the USA, with teams from India, Canada, France and Pakistan participating.
Today there is organized cycle polo being played in Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland and USA.
Cycle polo was officially recognized by the International Cycling Union in 2001.
The Pukka Chukkas MS Bicycle Polo Cup is an International Open event held in Nepal every year during the World Elephant Polo Championships. The current holders are Afghanistan who beat Norway in the final held on 2nd December 2010.