Page last updated at 00:04 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Banker takes polo to town

By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News, Waltham St. Lawrence, Berkshire

On a frosty morning at Blue's farm in Berkshire, Daniel Fox-Davies is sipping a mug of tea as he checks on his ponies.

Daniel Fox-Davies with the horses
Daniel Fox-Davies hopes to make money from the sport

Daniel has a plan.

In just over half a year, he hopes to have everything in place to realise his dream: to bring polo to the masses.

"Polo is usually in the middle of bloody nowhere," the 34-year-old City-boy grins.

"We're taking it to London."

Great on TV

Daniel's vision is relatively straightforward.

Six or more professional polo teams and a few strings of ponies should do the trick, all in a glamorous location - namely a brand new pitch in grounds adjacent to the Hurlingham Club in Fulham, which hosted the 1908 Olympic Games polo final won by England.

Daniel Fox-Davies in the trading room

So, have you made any money for me today?

Daniel Fox-Davies

And cameras. He wants plenty of cameras.

"Polo really should be great on TV," he insists, pointing to how a team of four essentially "has a striker, two midfielders and a defender", and as such could become a great spectator sport.

Which in turn, he hopes, should attract sponsors to finance it all.

Changing lifestyle

Back in the City, Daniel finds his seat in the middle of Fox-Davies Capital's trading room, rubbing his hands together, calling out to no one in particular: "So, have you made any money for me today?"

London has long been his stomping ground. By day, he captains a team of about 30 brokers and traders in a firm he has built from scratch. The evenings are spent in Kensington and Chelsea's lavish establishments, entertaining clients.

Or rather, this is how he used to live.

These days, having recently moved out of town, the country air sends him to bed early. "I even find myself reading novels again," he says.

Polo passion

And yet, Daniel is forever the banker; the sort who can barely enter a country pub without working out the average spend and multiplying it by the number of chairs.

Polo at Guards
The rules of the game will be changed to make it easier to understand

That explains why, ever since he started playing six years ago, he has been asking the same question: "Why is there no money in polo as a business?"

"I was thinking, this could be done so much better," he says.

Paradoxically, it was a nasty fall from a polo pony that gave him the answer.

"I'm not really into sport much, other than polo," Daniel admits, yet while recovering from his injuries he watched enough televised cricket and America's Cup coverage to realise that clever tricks can do wonders for an audience's attention span.

Colourful TV graphics, for instance, that show the audience the path of the ball, or punter-friendly rules that make it easier for the audience to understand what is going on.

"We're going to make a number of rule changes," he says, explaining how teams will not be returning to the middle after scoring a goal, and how he wants to encourage long passes to open up the game.

"We're writing our own rules," he says.

Moreover, "one of the problems is that the pitch is so big it makes it difficult to understand what's going on", so the Hurlingham pitch will be smaller than conventional ones.

Family friendly

The pot-holed drive from Daniel's home in White Waltham leads almost directly onto a small airfield where he keeps his private 'plane and from where he jets off to Scotland's grouse moors or Switzerland's ski slopes for weekends away.

Guests at Kidd Polo afterparty
Polo offers great networking opportunities, Daniel says

Make no mistake; this boy likes to play.

Though in spite of his interest in other activities, it is polo - the sport that nearly broke his back - that has stolen his heart.

Not only is he a regular player. He has also been taking clients to high goal matches at Guards Polo Club for several years.

"Corporate entertainment is a very valid part of our business," he explains. "The City is driven by what you know and who you know."

Polo, he insists, is the ultimate networking arena; unlike sports such as football, where "you all sit in a row", or Formula One motor racing, where "everyone's wearing headphones".

"Bernie [Ecclestone] made Formula One glamorous, but it's dull," Daniel insists. "Polo is pretty glamorous already and it certainly isn't dull."

Besides, unlike most corporate entertainment arenas, polo is family friendly and thus more appealing for the traditionally male dominated Square Mile.

"If you can invite people's wives they are much more likely to come, and if they can bring the children even better," Daniel says.

Global ambitions

To make it all happen, Daniel has installed a team of three organisers in a corner of his trading room and injected about 1m of his own cash to kick-start a global Polo in the Park series, in which cities will play against cities.

team
In a corner of the trading room a team of polo organisers is hard at work

In the long run he hopes to make a decent return from television rights, sponsorship deals, ticket sales and corporate entertainment packages.

If the London tournament is a success, the concept will be taken to Paris, New York, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Mumbai, where investors will be invited to take stakes in franchises.

The initiative is watched with keen interest by established figures in the world of polo. "I think it's a great idea," says Charlie Stisted, chief executive of Guards Polo Club.

"If you're not slightly entrepreneurial, nothing's ever going to happen, and the more people who get into polo the better."

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