Rumours have abounded, for quite a while, that World No.1 Micheal Van Gerwen might soon be looking to maximise his profile with a change of equipment manufacturer. The evidence that this is true seems to be mounting.
The darts’ business is like any other that deals with talent or creativity. The personalities and their decisions are the highest capital. Their decisions and possible future plans are a constant source of worry, gossip and rumour to all those with a stake in the game.
It’s a bit like that moment in the Premier League Transfer Window when everyone is waiting for the big deal to be done so that all the others can be kicked into gear.
The current and future plans of MVG are currently of interest to many. Unusually, amongst multiple major champions, he has never been attached to one of the bigger darts brands. Try to think of another multiple World Champion who is not associated with Unicorn, Harrows, Winmau, Target or Red Dragon.
Micheal was signed to a relatively small Masterdarts in his early days and then he joined start-up XQ Max as soon as his second successful spell began. Neither of these can offer the exposure, distribution or volume that one of the biggest names can manage.
Indications have been building for a while that MVG will soon leave XQ Max and head for one of the biggest names in the business.XQ Max has also gone with the idea of adding new but lesser names to their roster. There have been few new MVG items from XQ in recent months and the many of their previous products are appealing in unusual places for reduced prices. This has been the case for almost twelve months.
This seems to be accelerating with retailers discounting many MVG products substantially. This is a bonus for fans in one way. They can pick-up special edition products for up to half price in the lead up to Christmas. On the other hand, some may be disappointed not to own the latest design. A bit like getting last years football strip for Xmas!
Target seems to be refreshing their line-up and focusing on the next generation. Unicorn may be forced back into the “transfer market”. Gary Anderson has not returned strongly, from injury, and may not recapture his imperious major event form. Harrows have, slowly but surely, reasserted themselves as a player again. Their association with Glen Durrant was a perfectly timed partnership. The capture of Dave Chisnall seems a very shrewd move and suits their brand style and image. They also have an interesting squad of younger but solid players, Josh Payne is a fine example, who provide strong support and may have their own day in the sun.
Finally, Winmau have been quietly reasserting themselves as an industry-leading force. They have a fine combination of legendary figures ( Rees, Priestley, Hankey etc.) and current/recent champions ( Gurney, Whitlock & Waites) on their books. They also have a wide range of products and excellent distribution networks. For many years Winmau seemed to lean toward the BDO side of darts. This was mainly as it was seen as a grassroots code. With Winmau wanting their boards, and other products, to be seen by as wide a cross-section of the darting public as possible.
However, there is a gaping hole in the Winmau CV. They have no recent PDC World Champion. Although Dennis Priestley is a cross-code champ he was not with Winmau in his earlier career and for many he is at least as strongly associated with Harrow & the BDO. Their current stable includes at least 7 World Champions and multiple other finalists.
So, it appears to me that Winmau may well be best placed to capture MVG. He could join an already strongly established brand and both would boost the other. The extensive range of boards, cabinets, accessories, clothes and much more could be easily exploited. Winmau have recently shown a, previously unimagined, nimbleness and flexibility with their special edition ranges. Could they be about to fill that aforementioned gap by making a huge move?
So keep your eye out for MVG bargains in unusual places. Clearance routes and eBay often provide clues and opportunities. But in the meantime look-out for moves and reactions from the best-known brands in darts and for a big announcement from MVG.
J.R.Lott – Writes for Darts World Magazine, dartsworld.com and other outlets. He has extensive knowledge of the darts industry and simply loves all aspects of darts!
Pics: PDC or BDO (if not directly credited)