There has been some outrage over on League of Bike Polo about a company out of England offering a hardcourt “bike polo experience”. Kirrawee Events, ran by people who have never played bike polo, offers a single person bike polo experience for £75, a group bike polo event (up to 5 people) for £330, and a full bike polo event with training, a tournament, and “entertainment” for £1,200. For all of those people that try the bike polo experience and fall in love with the sport, Kirrawee sells Magic Bike Polo balls and mallets, as well as a “Black and Orange fixie bike”, so they can continue playing.
While Kirrawee Events may operator the website www.bikepolo.co.uk, London Hardcourt Bike Polo Association says that they have no affiliation with the company, and are in fact worried about how this company could ruin their reputation with the city of London if something goes awry at a bike polo experience. In a conversation with the guys over at Throw In Polo Co., Kirrawee Events admitted to lying to their insurance company about bike polo to, presumably, get cheaper coverage.
Kirrawee Events is turning out to be another MalletHeadz; a company trying to profit off of a sport that they know nothing about. What may be a surprise to you is that Kirrawee Events is not the first company to offer a “bike polo experience”. Thanks to Eric Crandall (Portland United fame), I was informed about the original bike polo experience.
Eric’s parents (Gary and Sarah) have organized the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Cable, Wisconsin since it start in 1982. In 1989, Sarah approached a company called Know Fun Club, Inc. about bringing Official Bicycle Polo to the festival for a demonstration. While the company was unable to attend the festival due to Official Bicycle Polo Worlds in Mammoth, California, they did send the Crandall’s a packet of promotional material.
Eric was gracious enough to photograph all of the promotional material and send it to us to share with the Poloverse. You can find all of the images HERE!
I encourage you to read through it all, but I will highlight some of my favorite parts:
The Know Fun Club, Inc. did what Kirrawee Events is trying to do, but they did it right. KFC was ran by members of Official Bicycle Polo Federation as a way to help promote their sport and plant the seeds to help it grow. The OBPF started in 1987 and here it is, just over 25 years later and the organization is non-existent. With the help of organizations such as Bicycle Polo Association of America, grass polo still exists in America (and around the world) so the OBPF must have done something right while preforming demonstrations across North America. This begs the question, what, if anything, can we learn from Official Bicycle Polo Federation’s strategy to expand their sport?
The NAH is concerned with outreach; each region has a representative in charge of outreach and Malakai Edison heads outreach for the NAH. With a group in charge that is concerned with outreach, these documents could really help hardcourt bike polo learn what to do and not to do, in order to help the sport grow.
For $380, the Know Fun Club, Inc. offered a “League Promo Packages” which included: 20 birch mallets, 8 practice balls, 8 tournament balls, 4 rulebooks with 16 summary sheets, 4 officials’ manuals, and 4 team memberships in the World Bicycle Polo Federation. For an additional charge, you can even order goal markers, a timer, numbered jerseys, and helmet covers. If NAH (or the European/Australian/South American equivalent) were to work with hardcourt bike polo companies, they could sell “Club Starter Packages”. This would help the sport grow by allowing a new clubs to form quickly and skip searching thrift stores for starter ski poles, while at the same time help NAH make a little money to help throw qualifiers or pay refs, any of the things we have been complaining about for years.
On the more local level, the regional representatives could work with bicycle festivals, such as the Know Fun Club, Inc. did, to organize demonstrations in their respective region. The regional representatives could then invite clubs to the event to help run clinics and play a small tournament for the audience. While it may be harder for our hardcourt version to find an adequate playing surface at such festivals, it is still worth thinking about.
With the information about Kirrawee Events reaching the hardcourt bike polo community, people are quickly being turned off by the idea of a bike polo experience. While Kirrawee Events is attempting to profit off of a sport they know nothing about, under the right guise, offering a bike polo experience could help the growth of hardcourt bike polo. If we take notes from the originators of the bike polo experience, the Know Fun Club, Inc., we can push hardcourt bike polo outreach in the right direction.