The USBPA became dormant in the 1980's, and a group of well-meaning people in Colorado founded the World Bicycle Polo Federation, believing that they had invented the game themselves. They thought up their own rules, which had nothing to do with equestrian polo, and set about promoting the sport. Their version of the game was played on a very short field (53 yards) with a whiffle ball, and players were required to ride parallel to the sidelines to hit the ball. Matheson was retiring from equestrian polo at about the time he heard about the World Bicycle Polo Federation, and decided to try to revive the original version of the sport.
As luck would have it, Matheson received a call from Bill Townsend, a Californian who was interested in promoting the sport. Townsend took the extraordinary step of traveling from Sacramento to Matheson's home in the tiny hamlet of Gilbertsville, New York, to pick his brain about the sport. Unfortunately, when Townsend returned home to California, he decided to adopt the WBPF rules, without having played either version of the game competitively. He thought the WBPF rules were "simpler," and its version of the sport "safer."
Townsend also took the trouble to find out if the USBPA had ever actually been incorporated, and discovered that it had not. He then proceeded to register the name, which is how the USBPA has come to promote a version of the sport that is anathema to the players who played in USBPA tournaments in the 1970's. The ultimate proof of the inferiority of the WBPF rules is that even those who invented them have converted to rules based on those of equestrian polo, and several veteran WBPF clubs have converted as well, such as the one in San Diego.
Having seen the USBPA go in a direction with which they did not agree, Matheson and Lopez decided to form the BPAA to encourage players to take up the original version of the sport. The BPAA rules were written by Bill Matheson, based on the current version of the USPA outdoor and arena rules, but with several significant modifications derived from Matheson's years of service on the USPA's Rules, Arena Polo, and Umpiring Committees. We hope they are easy to understand, and to follow; that was certainly our aim.
Since 1994, the BPAA has been involved in an effort to coordinate the various versions of the sport, merging with the American Bicycle Polo Association in 1997 to form a nationwide association. (The ABPA was based in Washington State, the BPAA in South Carolina.) Since then, members of the BPAA have contacted or played with bicycle polo players from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Great Britain, India, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa. While most of these countries play with rules based on the equestrian rules, there are many variations within that general framework. The Indians play with a tennis ball, the British and Irish with an outdoor polo ball, the French with a "Team Handball," and many Americans with an arena polo ball. The British and French play five on a side, with goaltenders, and have an upper limit on the goal; most other countries play four on a side, with no upper limit, only goal posts.
Clearly, there is a lot of work to do before one international version
of the game is agreed upon, but it is probably fair to say that there are
more people playing under equestrian-based rules than not. The BPAA remains
committed to working with players around the world to promote the sport,
and to integrate the various versions into one everyone can enjoy.