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Darting Debate: Time For A UK Specific Challenge Tour?

The PDC’s model for the growth and professionalisation of elite darts has proven a huge success. Barry Hearn’s major events dominate the global market, the Pro Tour is the gold standard for the professional game and their tier structure is getting better and better every year. But are the UK’s up and coming players getting a raw deal?

PDC: Barry Hearn
Could ‘Uncle Barry’ re organise the current tour structure and solve two birds with one stone?
PDC: Barry Hearn

For a long time it was obvious, to anyone being honest with themselves, that UK based players had every advantage. Nearly every event here, whether qualifying, tour or TV. We have an ingrained darting culture, strong leagues and a healthy ‘open’ event scene to match.

However, during the past decade, the balance has tipped toward other nationalities, especially those from mainland Europe. This is totally justified and inevitable as the game grows and new markets assert themselves. Yet, it seems it may now be moving to far away from the players of the ‘mother nation’.

The development of region specific tours in Scandinavia and Asia has led to ‘hybrid darters’ being able to zig-zag the globe with the insurance that they can earn ‘bread and butter’ money from their home tour. The best current example of the is Darius Labanauskas. ‘Lucky D’ has progressed on the Pro Tour while retaining a venue (Nordic Tour) where he can maintain the habits of playing long competition days, earning money and most importantly winning!

Johan Engstrom could well be an example of how this can be utilised at the secondary levels. Johnny is a fine player, reaching the later stages of the Winmau World Masters in 2015, and is capable of rising through the PDC ranks. He has the advantage of playing the affiliate tour in his region, the challenge tour and may well have multiple qualifying options for European Tour events. Johan will also be able to select WDF events and plough a second path to major titles and TV events. This has often been easier for European players than UK based PDPA members or associates.

The same may soon be said for the Asian Tour players. Although, due to the travelling etc., it is still a very difficult combination for to attempt.

Looking at, the rapidly expanding field for, Q School events, now being repeated at Challenge Tour level, tells us something. Is there a case for a re-division of the Tour? If so perhaps something like this might work:

  • Pro Tour
  • Challenge Tour (Events in Multiple Region/Nations)
  • Regional/National Tours (UK & RoI, Scandi, Asian, Euro, North America & more)
  • Women’s Tour? (Not my choice, but an option if linked to the others)
  • Development Tour (under 21)

A number of Tour Cards could then be allocated to the tours on the basis of standard and participation.

Q Schools would then be available to those who had played the affiliated tours (minimum events) and/or reached a specific std.

This is far from a complete structure, or system, but offers a possible solution to some of the issues currently being discussed within the darts community.

Feature Pic – L Lustig (PDC)