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CHIP CAMPBELL - AN ARTICLE BY HURLINGHAM POLO MAGAZINE

Jan 07, 2019 12:38 PM

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Chip Campbell.

Article originally published in Hurlingham Polo magazine, October 2018.

The chairman of the USPA reflects on the Association’s challenges, progress and plans for the future

"I began my service within the USPA about 10 years ago as a lieutenant governor – now I am chairman of the USPA. When you involve yourself in a non-profit volunteer position you soon realize that these entities typically take whatever they can get from a volunteer. This can detract from your own personal life and requires time and priority management. That is why there are a lot of very qualified people who will not involve themselves in volunteer positions and this is a symptom within the USPA. We have many good volunteers, but there are many more out there who have the resumé to serve, but will not. You must dedicate time and have a passion to involve yourself in this type of work. In my tenure with the USPA, I have operated under one thesis: leave it better than you found it! Realizing my tenure will come to a close in the near term, I intend to accomplish that for the benefit of the USPA and its members.

During my time with the USPA, I have noticed many things that did not make sense – mostly organizational and operational. However, there are many things that are correct and I attribute the things that needed fixing to previous management turnover, spending growth, the size of the board and its bureaucratic nature, as well as ‘the many sports’ within the sport of polo that the USPA is tasked with administering. There is no way around the size of the board – I attempted to change it and it was rejected. Those are the rules we are tasked to play by in the USPA, that is the way it is. We do have a nine-member executive committee, which helps with the management of the USPA, but we are essentially a committee run organization with multiple committees tasked with different subject matters, each with multiple members – all volunteers. Matters are considered and vetted at the committee level and then rise up to the executive committee/board level for ultimate approval. This process can, and usually does, take months. There is an implementation period, which takes longer. These processes can be frustrating when you’re used to making things happen fast, as most of us do in our own personal business.

Chip Campbell takes the ball on the nearside with Mario Maldonado going for the hook. ©Caroline Bramlett.
Chip Campbell takes the ball on the nearside with Mario Maldonado going for the hook. ©Caroline Bramlett

I wrote a forward to the 2018 USPA Bluebook several months ago that recaps my analysis of the USPA. But, since my election in September 2017 to the role of the USPA Chairman it is worthwhile to reflect on the progress we have made as an organization:

PERSONNEL

We’ve hired a new CEO and a new Executive Director of Services. We’ve also eliminated and consolidated the position of Executive Director of USPA Polo Development, LLC, and we continue to reorganize personnel and staff to be more efficient in relation to mission objectives.

REORGANIZATION

We’ve restructured the three wholly owned subsidiaries (Polo Development, Umpires and Marketing LLC) including their boards, designated powers, reporting and accountability to the USPA Board. We are also in the process of aligning, updating and complying with Illinois state law and providing consistency to the USPA governing organizational documents and policies.

Awarding prize money to our three highest-level USPA tournaments has enhanced support for the authenticity associated with our brand and licensing subsidiary (USPA Global Licensing), along with substantiating polo as a "legitimate" sport for our members, which could help for tax reporting.

The board has approved a horse-breeding registry and committee. We have also formalized, tasked and received board approval for a Strategic Planning Committee to steer the organization into the future.

FINANCIAL

We passed a fixed dollar annual subsidy limit for the USPA in April, which will encourage financial discipline and internal efficiency as pressure grows to increase spending as well as fixing the mark for an endowed organization. We continue to make marked progress in "endowing" the USPA and its operating expenses solely from a public securities portfolio; this objective should be accomplished in the next several years. Additionally, we will be proposing the earmarking of certain projected future cash inflows to fund specific items that have been "crisis managed" and we are in the process of passing a two-thirds super majority voting policy for major capital expenditures and purchases.

COMPETITION / OTHER

We have elevated and expanded competition and participation level for American players in the C.V. Whitney, USPA Gold Cup® and U.S. Open Polo Championship® tournaments by lowering the handicap from 26- to 22-goals and thus reenacting the "American" rule. A comprehensive three-year agreement with the International Polo Club Palm Beach has been structured; this addresses not only polo competition that includes unprecedented prize money awards, but also includes the USPA’s positioning to enhance the intellectual property and branding of the USPA marks, strengthening the promotion and awareness of the sport. Efforts continue to strengthen and broaden ties and collaboration with the leaders of the Hurlingham Polo Association, the Argentine Polo Association and the Federation of International Polo whereby we all play and abide by the same or similar rules. Efforts are also underway to revisit and strengthen interaction with the Polo Training Foundation, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame and other polo related charities. We are also actively seeking ways to further enhance the prestige and value of USPA tournaments by awarding them to deserving clubs and implementing a program to provide matching funds for prize money.

FUTURE INITIATIVES

On the agenda for the near future are the following initiatives:

• Get the USPA horse-breeding registry organized and operating.
• Continue to consult with management and executive staff to create operational efficiencies.
• Propose a matching funds program to stimulate consistent funding for international events. For example, Federation of International Polo, Westchester Cup, Camacho Cup, Cup of the Americas and international opportunities.
• Continue to advance and monitor the policy set forth of obtaining a public securities endowment for the USPA.
• Continue to oversee the operation of our independently managed licensing company and its tangible and intangible value creation to the USPA.
• Through restructuring of the USPA Polo Development, LLC, programs provide a realistic path to have more American high-goal players – this must be in conjunction with other sponsors, patrons and polo families.
• Continue to enhance the marketing push for "authenticity" between our brand and sport.

Chip Campbell with Gil and Skey Johnston in Wyoming. ©Bobbi Stribling.
Chip Campbell and the Johnstons. ©Bobbi Stribling

The USPA has the good fortune of being very sound financially, not only with recurring annual cash flow to fund operations, but also having a balance sheet that continues to escalate in market value. Our membership dues are too cheap in relation to the value of the Association and, regardless of our financial capabilities, the membership should at least cover the fixed overhead of running the Association. We have to continue to show the membership the value of being a USPA member so that one day we can politically raise the dues in order for the dues to cover the cost of the fixed overhead of running the Association. We have no excuse to not be successful from a financial standpoint!

However, we are living with a membership base that is reflective of policy and decisions made or not made within the USPA years ago. Significant challenges we now face include having very few American high-goal players, costs and expenses to compete in the sport are unreachable by most, making a living within the sport is difficult at best and patrons are in short supply.

In summary, my overall goals are to enhance USPA tournament competition at all levels, provide programs that enable sustainable player growth and development, provide a platform to legitimize polo ponies playing in America, provide means to strengthen the financial stability of our member clubs, ensure efficiency in the management and expenditures of the Association, strengthen the authentic association between our brand and sport, including its worldwide reach, and increase awareness of polo by continuing to refine and develop higher standards for polo webcasts, broadcasts and social media. Although we are making significant progress toward these goals they are all a work in progress.

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