As one of the royal family’s fondest sporting traditions, it is an unlikely front in the battle for gender equality. During a polo match, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry or previously the Prince of Wales would grace the pitch while their wives watch on patiently, occasionally handing trophies to the victors.
But the roles of men and women should be reversed, according to the world’s best female polo player, who argues that more female royals should take up the sport. Nina Clarkin, the British polo player who is the only woman in the world to be rated as ten goals in the female handicap system, said would like to see the royal husbands looking on while their wives play the game.
“I hope to see a young Royal female in the future playing the polo match and her husband watching from the sideline,” she told The Telegraph.
“My husband does it for me and I think it is completely possible and is probably going to happen.”
Nina Clarkin plays at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polo Charity Cup
Nina Clarkin plays at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polo Charity Cup Credit: Nick Harvey/WireImage
The Queen’s granddaughter and professional sportswoman, Zara Tindall, is currently the highest profile royal to play the game.
Mrs Clarkin, who started playing polo aged six, said the traditionally male dominated sport is now changing, to become “more focussed on women”.
“I have been playing a long time now and the number of women in the sport is growing exponentially,” said Mrs Clarkin.
“That’s at all levels – from patrons, to beginners to pros. There are more women getting involved and the sport is changing. It’s becoming more focused on women and I think that’s great.”
Women’s fixtures are proving just as popular off the pitch too, with increasing crowd numbers and interest from brands like Swarovski jewellery, which sponsored the England Ladies’ team in 2017.
“We have had really great feedback from the tournaments that we played recently – people are loving the game and the atmosphere. That’s also really showing in the number of sponsors that want to take part and get on board with women’s polo,” Mrs Clarkin said.
Mrs Clarkin was recently appointed a brand ambassador of the clothing brand at Hurlingham Polo, the international governing body of the sport.
“Nobody worries about whether I am a mother-of-two, or a woman for that matter, it’s just whether I perform on the field well enough that they want to support me,” she said.
“My husband, who is also a polo player, is often to be found on the sideline watching me and taking care of the children. The same goes for me. Neither one of us gets priority in that sense and we just support each other in the best way.”
Nina Vestey (blue colours) of Hildon Sport chases the ball during the final of The Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup held at Cowdray Park Polo Club
Nina Vestey (blue colours) of Hildon Sport chases the ball during the final of The Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup held at Cowdray Park Polo Club Credit: Julian Herbert/Getty Images Europe
She told how her children, Patrick, two, and Elizabeth, seven, attend most of her matches and have even started showing interest in the sport themselves.
“Patrick is riding and he is mad about horses. He even runs around with a little polo handstick,” Mrs Clarkin said.
“My daughter just had her first pony club tournament this year and she loved it. I don’t think she hit the ball more than twice but she absolutely loved it.”
Taking up the sport professionally after graduating from university aged 22, Mrs Clarkin, found coming back to the game after having children challenging.
She said: “I played in a team with four girls in the mixed polo and we now have a number of children between us and we all still play, which is great.
“I did find it difficult at first, just juggling everything was very hard. Physically I didn’t find it too bad to get back to full fitness. I was looking forward to getting back into it. I quite enjoyed the break but I was keen to get back and get going again.”