Record Prize Money On Offer In 2017

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)

Warren & Sherrock Head List as Q School Attracts Record Entries.

A record number of players have entered the 2020 PDC Qualifying Schools, with 853 players to compete for PDC Tour Cards in Wigan and Hildesheim from January 16-19.

Newly Crowned BDO Champion Wayne Warren will attempt to emulate Glen Durrant’s successful Q School bid from 2019.

Newly-crowned BDO champion Wayne Warren heads the list of BDO players taking part, alongside runner-up Jim Williams and former champions Scott Mitchell and Scott Waites.

FALLON SHERROCK Pic: Christopher Dean / Scantech Media 07930 364436

Global sensation Fallon Sherrock will hope to make more history by becoming the first woman to win a Tour Card, with a number of other female players also in action including Mikuru Suzuki, Lisa Ashton – who came close at last year’s Q School – and teenage prospect Beau Greaves.

Many experienced PDC stars will attempt to return to the PDC circuit, former World Champion John Part and Players Championship Finals winner Paul Nicholson. Darts World contributor Colin ‘The Wizard’ Osborne will also be in action.

31 two-year Tour Cards will be available, with play being held at UK Qualifying School, where 521 players will compete at Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan, and European Qualifying School, where 332 players will be in action at Halle 39 in Hildesheim, Germany.

Tour Cards will be won automatically by the final two players on each day at UK Q School and the final player on each day at European Q School.

Players will earn ranking points per victory in each full round of the event (not including Byes), which will be used to form Order of Merits for each Q School, from which a further 19 players will win Tour Cards (12 from UK Q School and seven from European Q School).

A number of international players who starred at the 2019/20 PDC World Championship will also compete, including Brisbane Darts Masters winner Damon Heta of Australia and Japanese duo Seigo Asada and Yuki Yamada.

Young talents Keane Barry, Nico Kurz and Danny Lauby are also among the list of entrants, alongside former World Youth Champions Arron Monk and James Hubbard.

Former BDO champion Mark Webster, who lost his PDC Tour Card at the end of 2019, has opted not to compete at Qualifying School in 2020.

A.I.M: Pick Their Premier League ‘Challengers’

In response to Andrew Devonshire’s article ( Dart designers, consultants and equipment testers A.I.M: have offered their selections for the seven remaining slots in the Premier League Challengers team for 2020. In addition, they have included a controversial wildcard:

Surely Whitey has earned his chance? Are they scared of him?
Pic: PDC L Lustig
  • Ian White
  • Krystztof Ratajaski
  • Seigo Asada
  • Max Hopp
  • Ricky Evans
  • Gabriel Clemens
  • Josh Payne

Our first selection is the Diamond, Ian White. Whitey has been consistently on the vrge of the Premier League (by right) for quite a few years. It seems very unfair that he does not even get an opportunity to get used to it. He is a very funny guy and a player who adapts and improves to every situation. This tester session could be just what he needs to jump up another level. Kryzstof is a major champion and he has claimed PDC titles already, it is only a matter of time before he qualifies and this would give him a chance to show he can do it under these conditions.

Selecting two Germans is both sensible for the development of the game and keeping up the standard of those selected. Clemens is a seriously hard working player who gets better on the time and Hopp know how to win matches and titles.

Ricky Evans is the such a singular player that it would be good to see him in these conditions. If he could retain his composure and relaxation he would be superb entertainment, the crowd would love him. Baby Shark anyone?

Asada gives the Asian tour a focus within the Premier League and may lead to a visit there very soon! He is a quality player who has performed well both on tour and in World Championships.

A fine example of a young professional who has done it the right way. Josh payne could cause a headache or two and deserves reward.

Josh Payne has developed strongly. He has taken his time and matured through each stage of the modern game. Talented, though a little under rated, Josh is a fine example of what a new generation young player should be in attitude, presentation and professionalism. It would be wise to reward this.

WILDCARD – Ted Hankey

The ultimate villain?
Pic: Wimau

We cant help thinking, that if Ted is fit enough, The Count would be a superb guest star. In many ways Hankey, at the Grand Slam, showed the way in terms of a darts villain. It would certainly be a challenge for his opponent and great fun for the crowd.

Asada & Ilagan Continue Dominance of PDC Asian Tour.

Seigo Asada enjoyed another superb weekend on the PDC Asian Tour winning both titles this defeating another strong tour performer in Lourence Ilagan.

William Hill World Darts Championship – Day Five Round-Up
One of six different winners on this years PDC Asian Tour was Paul Lim. Master of Soft and Steel.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

His efforts are enough to ensure a repeat visit to the Ally Pally where he will be a danger on current form.

The final two events were seven and eight for this year and were held in Taipei. Until this closing weekend, the tour had produced six different winners from the first six events. Both Asada and Ilagan had claimed an earlier event along with major South Asian Roydom Lam and Marumatsu. An early event was claimed by the legendary Paul Lim ensuring his presence in yet another arena.

It was a tough run for last years World Championship qualifier. En route, to Saturday’s title, he notched up wins over Kai Fan Leung 5-3, Yuki Yamada 5-2, both of whom have reached the later stages of tour event this year. before seeing off Ilagan in a deciding leg and claim a 5-4 win.

Ilagan claimed wins over Michael Viola (5-2) and Jayson Langcao. These events have completed another successful season for the fledgeling PDC Asian Tour darts.

Lourence Ilagan 5-2 Michael Viola
Jayson Langcao 5-0 Shan Ping Leslie Lee
Yuki Yamada 5-3 Thanawat Yong Gaweenuntavong
Seigo Asada 5-3 Kai Fan Leung

Lourence Ilagan 5-2 Jayson Langcao
Seigo Asada 5-2 Yuki Yamada

Seigo Asada 5-4 Lourence Ilagan

Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Pic: L Lustig/PDC