October is the time of year when classes restart and students return to their lessons and the academic and social life that comes with it. The traditions and age old history of the sport of polo within both Oxford and Cambridge University mean that it was a natural fit for us of La Martina to build and develop a ‘Varsity’ partnership. This relationship is made even more unique by the fact that it is a multi-levelled partnership – it is not limited just to the sponsorship of the teams, but to a larger lifestyle philosophy and a global co-branding ambition. The traditions of this unique University culture and the aspirations that students nurture academically, physically, and socially, is a constant inspiration, not just for our on-going investment in its range of world class technical equipment, but also for the Varsity Collection which has recently launched in to stores with the much anticipated FW16 range.
As a reflection of these shared values and commitment to the sport of polo, we worked closely with both CUPC and OUPC to appoint several new Ambassadors who would join the much acclaimed La Martina Ambassadorial Programme, thus becoming an integral part of the future of the Varsity partnership. These ambitious and highly dedicated Ambassadors train hard during the academic year, driving their relevant clubs forward with the philosophy of maintaining the traditions that have long been part of their Club’s culture, whilst embracing new initiatives that will eventually secure a bright future for the teams.
In June each year, these efforts culminate in the historic and traditional fixture of The Varsity Match, an age-old and hugely competitive showdown between Cambridge and Oxford University, held at the most exclusive polo club in Europe and the ‘polo home’ of La Martina within the UK, Guards Polo Club. The appeal of the Varsity Polo Match is still just as strong today as it was a century ago. Cambridge and Oxford University have historically met to battle it out in many sporting fixtures, including the globally acclaimed Cambridge/Oxford boat race along the river Thames in London. Traditionally, a tally is kept each year to see which University has clocked up the most wins – for many students this is one of the highlights of the Academic Year.
The first Varsity Match dates back to the 19th century, to 1878. At that time, and up until the end of World War II, the match was played at the historic Hurlingham Club, the ‘polo temple’ within London where the rules of the sport of polo, according to the Governing body the HPA (Hurlingham Polo Association), were first published. With a few minor updates and ‘modernisations’, these are the rules that polo is still played under today.
With the end of World War II, the polo fields of the Hurlingham Club were sold and the baton for the Varsity Day was duly passed to the prestigious Guards Polo Club. Set in the middle of glorious Crown Estate Property in Windsor Great Park, Guards is unique within polo clubs for its size, quantity of playing and social members, and it’s innovative and contemporary approach to marketing and sponsorship. In 2016, The Varsity Match was played for an astonishing 118th time.
This Match is a unique competition played between blues, dark blue for Oxford and light blue for Cambridge. The match format also has some distinctive traits: it is not handicapped, the players are all students, and teams can be mixed, a rarity in university athletic competitions – but such is the beauty of the sport of polo! The Varsity Polo Match is a truly special and highly anticipated occasion within the English summer social calendar – a chance to soak up the glorious surroundings of Windsor Great Park while cheering (loudly!) for the light blues or the dark blues.
Our relationship with both Oxford and Cambridge University is something that the brand is extremely proud of - and continues to be inspired by. The sense of traditon mixed with the sense of ambition and drive for the future creates a shared philosophy that will continue to grow in strength during the coming years. A hint to the regimental past of the sport of polo, mixed with the traditions of tweed and the very best of college-styling, create a unique collection that, excitedly in 2016 and beyond, now allows every La Martina customer the chance to be a part of history in the making.