Below is a lengthy letter sent by the ‘Gang of Five’ to the BDO counties in advance of the Annual General Meeting in 2011, and the response from Olly Croft. This contents of this letter subsequently resulted in Olly Croft being voted off the BDO Board, and Barry Gilbey, Martin Adams, Wayne Williams, Sue Getty and Derek Weston joining Vic Sexton on the new BDO Board.
BASE OUTLINE ON THE FUTURE OF THE BRITISH DARTS ORGANISATION
This document will provide the basis for the direction of the British Darts Organisation (BDO) for the foreseeable future, if those listed on the email sent with this document are elected onto the Board of the BDO. The outline will be categorised and in some part detailed, however this is only intended as a framework and as such not a definitive document.
The categories listed below are in no particular order, nor does its listing provide a specific prioritisation. Similarly until all funds are made apparent the speed in which this framework could be implemented is under question.
The categories under review are not limited to those below however we believe these categories will provide the main structure for any evolvement within the organisation.
British Counties and Countries
BRITISH COUNTIES AND COUNTRIES
There has to be a closer bond between the Counties, Countries and the Board of the BDO. The counties we believe need to feel that the Board of Directors are working for them, that the system works for them and that they are an integral part of the system. To that end there is a need for the system to be looked at and improved. Whether it be the way paperwork is distributed and handled, to the way meetings are conducted a complete inspection of the system is needed.
Furthermore the way in which the BDO deal with the Countries is another aspect which also requires looking at. The communication between the BDO, England, Scotland and Wales is something which needs urgently looking at. Each Country has its own agenda and pace which at times neither fits neatly into the BDO nor the way it works. To this end the BDO needs to understand each countries requirements and with that will come a united approach. To that extent the Board needs to sit down with the various Countries and include them in the framework for the future.
BDO RESPONSE: In fairness, the counties have been presented with many opportunities to increase revenue over the years……BDO credit card, sponsors including telephone companies, insurance companies, drinks companies ( brands like Kaliber), more recently Rileys, etc, but unfortunately co-operation has often been lacking. Sponsors have actually walked away because of this lack of support from counties. Perhaps the root cause is that the majority are run as individual organisations – looking after their own interests and not coming together when it matters.
The same can probably be applied to individual countries. England, Scotland and Wales are run as separate entities and there is a disappointing lack of communication between them all.
It has recently been reported from several sources that there was unwarranted criticism of the BDO and its officials at a recent EDO event. Worryingly these comments were made by a high profile EDO official. How can we be expected to work together in harmony and for the success of BDO darts, when such attitudes exist?
For the record, since its inception, the BDO has a maintained a policy of not criticising other organisations, players or officials. It is counter-productive and destructive to our system.
Collective responsibility is all well and good when discussed, but putting it into practice is another thing altogether.
This is an area which has been long in need of a defined structure. The current regime has continually neglected this area, throwing together a few competitions and claiming it is looking after the future of tomorrow.
The system in place at the moment is fundamentally driven by individual counties under the auspice of the Northern and Southern Inter County Youth Leagues. Few individual counties have specific structures, such as a Youth Superleague or an Academy.
Where academies have been set up by individuals, or groups of individuals, rather than as a County system, they have in the main been either sponsored or part sponsored by Unicorn the main board manufacturer of the PDC. Subsequently the PDC have now claimed these Academies are their own.
The introduction of the PDC World Youth Championship in 2010 was quite rightly hailed as a success. Following this tournament the PDC has now introduced a Youth Circuit which is going to produce a new breed of young player no longer in need of the BDO system.
Therefore it is essential a structure is placed into the BDO system for the youth. The structure must be inclusive of all, and not as is currently within the PDC focused on the elite players. However the elite youth players must be recognised and nurtured ensuring they have both short and long term goals which should help them stay within the BDO system.
To provide this system the BDO must have a Director who is both experienced within the setting up of youth systems (Academies), and has the drive and passion to develop not only a system, but also a network of regional and area centres and representatives which will develop the player, referee and official of tomorrow.
It will be down to this Director to initially establish a system and framework which will benefit the BDO and the youth. This framework must include development of the current Child Protection System which at the moment has little leadership nor direction. It is also essential that individual counties take a greater responsibility for their Youth system. Currently there are several counties who have youth teams but do not interact with either their youth committee or indeed the players who represent their county.
Ultimately the new system will incorporate the huge potential darts can play within the education process, a source currently untapped within the BDO system. In conjunction with this the top players within the BDO system should be encouraged to attend and heighten their profiles within these academies.
BDO RESPONSE: The BDO has always promoted youth and provided opportunities like the British Teenage, the BICC Youth KO Cup (which was a fantastic success again just a couple of weeks ago) and separate Boys and Girls events in the World Masters (the Youth Masters has been played since 1986). These are just examples of what is available within the BDO system. However, in their usual sleight-of-hand way, the PDC have suddenly ‘discovered’ youth in the same way that they ‘discovered’ women’s darts! The problem is, lots of people give them more credit for this late arrival in women’s and youth darts than they have ever done for the BDO initiatives over many years. And the youth have never been expected to pay high entry fees. The BDO policy has always been for for low or no entry fees for youngsters. However, the PDC have treated women’s and youth darts as a gimmick, and both are subject to high entry fees. There should be pride in the fact that the BDO provides youth with the experience of competition without a pull on their pockets (or their parents pockets!) and it has to be recognised that all counties could (and should) have vibrant youth systems.
The Ladies game has been the most disappointing aspect within the system. To restore the game to where it was five years ago in the terms of Ladies participating at tournaments will take several years. The number of Ladies participating within the BICC does not appear to have diminished, so the answer must lay elsewhere.
The general standard of the game appears, with the exception of the top five or six Ladies, to have slipped. The averages within the BICC five years ago would have seen most teams in the top division averaging over 20, now however the norm is around 19. Whilst this only equates to around a point per match it is normally being held up by individual players having 23+ averages, thus the general standard of play within the team has diminished.
I believe that in the long term the youth project will restore the numbers back into the sport; however this is obviously not a short term and maybe not even a mid term fix. I believe to find the solution will take several influential figures within the sport to debate within the system as to the reasons why numbers have reduced.
If you ask the top players you will not find the answer because they still attend tournaments all over Europe on a weekly basis. It is the average Lady playing within the BICC where the questions must be asked. To do this a set of questions need to be set down whereby at the end of the assessment there is not only a general idea of why the numbers have diminished, but also some thoughts and ideas as to how the Ladies game can be resurrected.
BDO RESPONSE: Sadly, despite the best efforts of the BDO over a number of years, there is a lack of interest in the women’s game from TV companies and sponsors. Again, this is not the fault of the BDO, because as an organisation they have promoted the women’s game and have ensured that the World Pro and World Masters maintain ‘reasonable’ prize money. Bob Potter doubled the top prize at Lakeside this year to £10,000. Winmau have also consistently increased women’s prize money in the World Masters. Again, it is up to the ladies to help themselves. Without doubt, every BDO Open that includes a separate women’s tournament does so at a loss because of lack of entries and support. Again, the BDO have provided the opportunities, but if the women players are not interested in sufficient numbers, there is very little that can be done to increase prize money or the promotion of the women’s game.
It must be noted that Anastasia Dobromyslova has returned to the BDO because of lack of opportunity in the PDC. She was used as a gimmick by posing for glamour photographs and being put in competition with the men. Where is the respect for the women’s game or the ‘growth’ factor there?
We believe this subject needs to be split up into several mini headings although some topics will overlap from one heading to another. The headings being, Opens, Members Only, Television Events, Tournament Structure and Prize Money.
BDO organised Open events tend to be well supported; although the argument would be; do the events support the need of the member? At present there are just three open tournaments catered for in this country, together with the Torremolinos Open in Spain.
The three events in this Country are the British Open, International Open and British Classic. I have not included the Camber Sands Festival as this is at present both an unknown quantity and also must have a doubt as to whether it will in fact get off the ground in 2012.
The British Open five years ago was a flourishing competition. The introduction of Setanta Sports to televise the latter stages had several effects. The first was that the singles event was moved from the Sunday to the Saturday; this ensured higher viewing figures for the TV and also, because of the TV coverage, raised the numbers entering the singles. However it lowered the numbers entering the Pairs, as many players took the opportunity to make their return journey during the day on the Sunday. Since Setanta folded the decision was taken to leave the Singles on the Saturday. Over the past couple of years numbers have dwindled in both the Mens and the Ladies. We believe this is partly because the event is on the Saturday; Bridlington the venue for the Open, being on the North East Coastline makes it difficult to get to and from. Therefore some people do not want to travel in the rush hour on a Friday evening and feel that just to enter the singles is a waste of their time and money.
If the pairs was reintroduced to the Saturday and the singles Sunday this we believe would have an immediate uplift in numbers. A further reason why the numbers have dropped in the pairs is that the monies are not taken until the Sunday morning, thus no pre entries. This has the effect that if a player cant be bothered on a Sunday morning then they just won’t enter and it hasn’t cost them anything. Furthermore the Friday money in money out competition, if it is to be continued, has to reorganise itself so that it costs less to enter the building that enter the competition.
BDO RESPONSE: Playing systems can always be changed to suit requirements, but if there is an opportunity for TV then this must be utilised to suit broadcast needs. When it comes to exposure and commercial gain for the BDO and the sport of darts, TV needs have to be met. We are hoping that ESPN will take more BDO darts going forward and several proposals are on the table for the future. Approaches have also been made (and continue to be made) to ITV, BBC and other broadcasters. For all of these, the prime days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There is always a need to look at the ‘bigger picture’ and realise that TV sells darts in just the same way as our top players and those exciting talents coming through the system. ESPN have also agreed to include the Women’s World Masters in their initial coverage, which is good news for the ladies and a reward for the BDO lobbying on behalf of women’s darts.
The International Open is the type of event which typifies the BDO and its ability to cater for all standards of player, both on the playing front, and also on the atmosphere and friendly environment front which is created during this weekend. The weekend gives an opportunity for the local pub player and his family to have a weekend of darts whilst at the same time as mixing with the stars. Given the current uncertainty with Pontins and the direction its buyers are going, if the facility at Brean Sands was to disappear then we believe it is essential that a similar facility be found to cater for this weekend.
BDO RESPONSE: This is very much in hand year on year with the BDO constantly looking for venues. However, it is important that such matters are kept in-house before they are definite and can then be confirmed.
The British Classic has for many years failed to find an identity within the calendar. Its placement within the calendar together with the fact it only has a singles competition makes it difficult to gather the amount of playing competitors usually associated with BDO competitions. The change in venue from Kettering to Braintree had two effects. The first was it was noticeable in that the entries declined. This would mainly be due to two things, one a move away from the centre of the country, the second was that it was a new venue and this always has an effect. If you throw in the fact it was and still remains on a Saturday the entry numbers will deteriorate as individuals will not take the day off work just for one day of darts. The return to Kettering is a massive backward step in regard of the venue. The venue at Braintree had the ability to cope with any size of tournament, from the 300-400 players through to over a 1000 players with a stage and venue which had the ability to cater for an audience and unlimited TV resources.
Kettering in the meantime has proven to be unsatisfactory for both large numbers of competitors and also TV. This tournament has to be looked at with regards to its identity and viability on the current calendar date.
BDO RESPONSE: Many agreed that Towerlands Park in Braintree was a good venue for the British Classic, but sadly the cost of hiring the venue was increased to a figure that was simply unacceptable. The return to Kettering was borne out of necessity and all are agreed that it is a venue that is easily accessible and more centrally located. Again, it has to be realised that finances are tight for everyone and that is a main reason for any reductions in entries. This year’s Classic attracted a combined field of some 500 players, which is not bad in the current climate.
The Torremolinos Open has been on a fast track decline for the past three or four years. This tournament had for many years, been an ideal opportunity for darts in the Sun as the BDO advertised it. During the 80’s, 90’s and the early part of the 21st Century this tournament was unique in that the family could go on holiday to Southern Spain and incorporate a week of darts. Several issues have materialised over the past decade, none of which appear to have been addressed by the current administration. The issues which include the change in climate, the introduction of the Euro as the local currency, together with the poor playing venue, an increase in the cost of the holiday and the fact the same prize money is on offer now as was on offer 20 years ago. With all of these factors coming into account, this is a tournament which needs serious consideration on either its viability or structure.
BDO RESPONSE: It must be understood that this is a ‘fun’ event designed to appeal to the rank and file darts player and very much a family affair, darts holiday/ ‘festival’. If there was higher prize money and invitation points on offer it would attract the ‘bigger’ players and thus spoil the whole idea of a get-away from-it-all darts break that is enjoyed and looked forward to by many. It is a darts holiday/festival that has been successful for 30 years and mixes competitive darts with fun and enjoyment. It epitomises the diversity of BDO darts and deserves to be better supported. The venue is excellent and surely it is a little unreasonable for the BDO to be made accountable for climate change and poor exchange rates?
Currently there are definitively just two member’s only competitions the Gold Cup and the British Masters. The Gold Cup as with the British Masters provides a small window of opportunity for the local Superleague player to fast track themselves into the spotlight.
Both competitions, especially the British Masters require a rethink into how they are organised both initially and at the finals stage.
Currently just two events are televised, the Winmau World Masters and the Lakeside World Professional Championship. Prior to that Setanta Sports had televised four other events, however this only lasted one year. Previously there had been no British televised events, outside of the two majors, for several years. With the advent of many sports channels, together with the likes of ITV4 showing major sporting events it is an area which has significant potential. The introduction of ESPN into the game of darts and specifically the BDO can only be a major positive injection; however their introduction comes at a cost which is the loss of the BBC to the World Masters. The overall cost will only be identified in real terms once the event has taken place. However the fact that the event is televised at all gives the BDO hope for the future. The World Masters however is another competition which is in danger of losing its identity, over the past 12 months a new points table was introduced so it was easier for all to track the World Masters rankings, with a now regular switch from the latter end of the year to September and back again means the competition has once again thrown up players being able to get two sets of points for one tournament or none at all depending on the date. It is essential the competition finds a stable date in the calendar.
BDO RESPONSE: The World Masters is a victim of the 20% budget cuts at the BBC. The decision is strictly financial. The BBC have not fallen out of love with BDO darts but like snooker and bowls, certain events have had to be cut from the current budget…..exactly in the same way as we are seeing cuts everywhere at the moment. The BDO have been in discussion with ESPN since January 2010 and when the World Masters became available it was offered to them immediately and following the submission of proposals and subsequent meetings, 3 days of coverage (mostly live darts) and over 18 hours of BDO darts has been secured, with IMG Sports Media (who have produced the Masters and World Pro for BBC) doing the production. This guarantees the best darts coverage and the bonus of Ray Stubbs returning as presenter of World Darts. It has to be recognised that ESPN (part of the massive Disney Corporation) is one of the biggest broadcasting organisations in the world and the World Masters represents an ‘investment’ by them in BDO darts of a six-figure sum. It is their first venture into darts and we should all be delighted that they are supporting BDO darts. Their future liaison with the BDO and our darts is down to the success of the 2011 World Masters. Every effort has been poured into making this happen, but it has not been easy with a new venue and dates that have only allowed a run-in period of just over 2 months. It should also be noted that ESPN executives, just like BBC and other broadcasting organisations, keep a watch on darts forums, and some of the postings do BDO darts and their supporters no favours at all. The BDO, including its Board of Directors and county officials, should make a conscious decision not to post (or respond to posts) on darts/sports forums. They are counterproductive, as are the people who post on them.
The World Professional Championships is a week long event in which the BBC has several programmes and several hours which are needed to be filled. If this is continued with its afternoon programme then the BDO must take the opportunity to establish a five minute spot each day to promote the Organisation and its benefits.
BDO RESPONSE: This shows a total lack of understanding of the BBC ethos and broadcast guidelines. They are not there to advertise the BDO (or anyone else for that matter) but they promote the organisation and its players by broadcasting the event – which they have done since 1978. This represents the longest running broadcast partnership with darts ANYWHERE in the world. There will be much more coverage in 2012, with longer afternoon shows and ESPN coming in to broadcast LIVE coverage of every weekday evening session (potentially 15 hours+), the 2nd Semi Final and simultaneous live coverage of the 2012 final (another 5-6 hours of live BDO darts). This has come out of the BDO’s discussions and meetings with ESPN and IMG Sports Media, and provides BDO darts and its players with the most diverse TV coverage in World Darts: BBC-1, BBC-2, BBC Worldwide, Eurosport, Eurosport Asia and now ESPN. BBC viewing figures alone are in their millions, and the BDO gets plenty of identity and name mentions throughout the World Pro week.
The words structure and tournament have not been put together before within BDO tournaments. The attitude previously has been to put a tournament together and then decide what the format is going to be. Several issues need to be determined before any formal planning on this subject can be implemented; however a simple proforma would be to increase the length of matches at certain points within tournaments. The higher the category of the tournament the longer the latter stages should be. As such it might be that the final of a category ‘A’ tournament would be a minimum of the best of five sets five legs to a set, however a category ‘C’ tournament might just be the minimum of the best of nine legs. Furthermore the categorisation in respect of the numbers entering a competition should be based on the previous year’s numbers not the current years.
BDO RESPONSE: Tournaments are regularly reviewed and consideration given to any suggestions re format. The normal criteria is to ensure that the time-scale fits in with every tournament – something which is crucial in televised events.
Several years ago it was introduced that the category of a tournament had to have a minimum first prize. This was supported by the number of entries into that competition. The current categorisation is dependant on the prize fund rather than the first prize; however there is no determination as to how the prize fund is distributed. We believe that each category should be dependant on both the first prize and also how the fund is distributed.
BDO Response: Again, this is always open to review, but prize money has to be based on income from entry fees, which have always been kept as reasonable as possible. What would players be prepared to pay? Recently a tournament was attempted with an entry fee of £25 per player and only received interest from a handful of players. As mentioned previously, the women’s tournaments invariably run at a considerable loss (the recent British Classic didn’t take sufficient entries to cover the top prize) and often the whole prize structure needs to be supported by the BDO.
The BICC has since its inception been the flagship of the BDO. The function that on any one weekend in the region of 2300 dart players can represent their County and travel all over England, Scotland and Wales gives this competition huge potential for sponsorship and support. However the lack of any innovative ideas from the current board together with a consistent lack of sponsorship has degraded this competition enormously. The ability for counties to continue to produce teams and sufficient finance for those teams to continue within the BICC is rapidly diminishing. The current climate means that sponsors are no longer willing to part with their money as readily as in previous years. Therefore it is the onus of the board of the BDO to provide as much assistance as possible. In 2008 it was agreed to increase the money which counties put into the BICC in order to fund the points for the ‘B’ teams. Whilst we believe that the current funding going into the BICC from the Counties is sufficient, the amount returned to the counties in the way of prize money is not. The BDO has cut its costs for the BICC year on year because of the introduction and implementation of the email system and then with the utilisation of DFW. However none of these savings have been passed onto the Counties.
The current income for the BICC from counties is approximately £41,000 and if the Superleague levy is included this takes it well over £50,000. With the outgoings in prize monies approximately £35,000 this leaves a minimum of a £15,000 shortfall. Whilst it is acknowledged that there is a significant amount of time and work put into the BICC we find it somewhat difficult to believe the cost of running the BICC comes close to £15,000.
Therefore we believe two things can happen almost immediately, the first is to reassess the financial structure of the BICC and the second is to restructure the prize monies given to the counties. Furthermore there has been a long overdue need for the BICC to be given a facelift. Many competitions, outside of darts, over the past two decades have been revamped in order to provide long term sustainability. In order for the BICC to move forward a major review on the competition is essential. A working party made up of the current BICC Directors together with nominated representatives from each division, including Scotland will be given the opportunity to sit down and recommend a pathway forward for the BICC.
For several years now, sponsorship for the BDO has been limited to just a few companies. With Lakeside and Winmau the two main sponsors a few other companies such as East Yorkshire Events, John Smiths, Jackpot Joy and Pontins have made up the remaining sponsors. The recent introduction of Rileys was according to the board going to bring significant new income to the counties. Unfortunately this has not been forthcoming, and where Counties have received income it is not a sustainable long term answer. Therefore it is essential that the BDO in its movement forward identifies new areas for sponsorship as well as enhancing relationships with the current loyal group. It will be the responsibility of one individual to undertake the role of maintaining the current relationships and also developing new clients.
The current board have also failed in any bid they may have undertaken to identify minor sponsors. These are the type of companies such as water manufacturers to sponsor the water placed on the stage. Another area maybe to sponsor individual boards at tournaments, if 32 boards were sponsored at £100 per board this money for instance would go a long way to paying for the accommodation for officials. The person who undertakes the role of obtaining sponsorship will be given the opportunity to develop a new strategy in obtaining and maintaining clients.
BDO RESPONSE: Yet another misconception and lack of understanding of the market – especially in today’s recessionary times. Everyone ‘thinks’ that sponsorship is easy to obtain until they go into the marketplace and try to find it! Nowadays there just isn’t enough available money from companies, and the main criteria is television (ideally LIVE) and a solid commercial return.
Earlier in this document the pitfalls have been pointed out, and far too often sponsors have been let down by a real lack of commitment from the counties and players in general. The maxim should be: If you want to get something out of sponsorship, then you have to put something in.
Rileys and Netsports are two prime examples. They offer opportunity for counties to make additional money, but it requires input and enthusiasm from the counties. Sponsorship is not a philanthropic institution but a business commitment.
The PDC is often cited as being a ‘brand leader’ in sponsorship and prize money. However, they change sponsors on a regular basis and can attract on-line gambling organisations because all their darts are live on Sky. Through Barry Hearn sponsorship comes from his involvement in other sports like snooker and pool or poker, as well as from his relationship with Sky advertising companies.
The PDC prize money is funded further by the type of sky-high entry fees and PDPA membership (compulsory) that would not be tolerated by BDO players/officials.
BDO sponsors past and present cannot be dismissed as ‘few and far between’: Embassy was a massive sponsor until government bans on tobacco sponsorship came into effect in 2003. Since then, Bob Potter and Lakeside have provided millions of pounds to keep the World Pro in its position as the premier event in World Darts. Without doubt this has kept the BBC very much on board and 2012 marks the 34th consecutive year of BDO darts on the BBC (something which Barry Hearn is extremely envious of). Pontin’s have been super supportive over many years and Winmau have supported the BDO for almost 40 years. John Smith’s have supported the World Masters and World Pro as well as introducing ‘People’s Darts’; the government ‘Fire Kills’ campaign sponsored the BDO International Grand Prix series; Jackpotjoy.com have been supporters of the World Masters and World Pro since 2006; East Riding of Yorkshire, Bridlington and Hull Councils have supported the World Pro and other events including the British Open and BDO British Internationals over a number of years. All are hugely reputable sponsors and supporters of BDO darts.
Every possible sponsor has been approached, including water companies, insurance companies, breweries, credit card companies, etc, etc. The reasons for no uptake can include lack of available money for this type of activity, the ‘image’ of darts not being deemed ‘suitable’ for some products and services, and lack of commitment from counties, countries, players and officials.
The current systems in use for the World Rankings are at best complicated and at worst unmanageable. The timings of competitions together with the many other criteria set down means that it is almost impossible to maintain accurate and current tables. Later in this document it will be outlined how to identify individual players, which currently seems to be an almost impossible task. This current year I am aware of occasions where players have had their name either put in twice or put against the wrong player. Therefore a working party of new board members together with board members of the WDF will sit down and discuss a new pathway forward. Furthermore as outlined in the prize money section of open tournaments a review of how tournaments are graded will also be a part of any discussion.
BDO Response: The BDO Invitation Tables are subject to review every Autumn.
This topic will be included in several other subject matters when identifying new pathways. However it is obvious that on too many occasions over the past few years many venues currently in use are either too small or not suitable for purpose. With the introduction of technology certain criteria must be laid down prior to the approval of any venue. An example would be the televising of the British Classic by Setanta Sports. The venue used for the stage finals was woefully inadequate. It discouraged the audience and the TV commentators could be heard from the stage.
Currently the BDO is in a mixed position and lacking direction when it comes to the media. Robert Holmes who is employed by the BDO as a PR consultant also has the responsibility of media relations. The main areas of the media are Television, Radio and the written press. With regards to Television I believe the board have either failed to use Robert, or he has failed to gain the BDO suitable air time at the two major championships hosted by the BDO. Either way the BDO have failed to gain airtime to publicise the company, its assets and strategies. Radio and in particular local radio can be a useful tool in the promotion of individual counties, however it appears few counties utilise this tool. The written media are all too often falling on one side of the divide or the other; however the BDO cannot expect to gain vast coverage in the national press because of the current lack of major tournaments. It was muted in many circles that following the take over of Darts World the BDO would lose its main source of media. However at the moment the coverage attained within the magazine is fair and proper, that being said unless there is a direction and strategy with regards to media coverage this may change.
BDO RESPONSE: This again shows naivety and a lack of understanding of the media. All media is provided with information on all BDO events on a regular basis, but the fact of the matter is that the national media are only interested when the World events are on TV – typically, this is from December through to January. At that time the BDO gets more than its fair share of coverage in national, regional and world media.
Robert Holmes handles all of this on his own and does a first-class job in promoting the BDO, its players, officials and tournaments.
As previously mentioned, to expect the BBC to provide stand-alone promotion of the BDO at the World Masters and World Pro is not even an option. The BBC actually does so by providing coverage and mentioning the organisation at appropriate times during the 9 days coverage. To put it in perspective, the World Pro is on a par with Wimbledon. There have been TV features on Olly Croft, the history of the BDO and World Championship, various players, the Bob Potter/Lakeside connection and tremendous coverage (including videos) on the BBC website and BBC online. It is a complete package of the very best in TV coverage and all the information provided to the BBC commentators and presenters is provided by RH.
In addition, he pioneered the successful campaign to get darts recognised as a sport and more recently Darts World has been nurtured by him on behalf of the BDO, even to the extent of getting negative material removed from its pages. Again, just like Darts Monthly, regular information is issued and the website is kept updated, despite the fact that there is no dedicated webmaster.
The PDC gets the bulk of its coverage in the Murdoch titles, simply because of the Sky connection. The BICC results are issued after every weekend during the season to the Press Association and many others.
This is another area which has been totally neglected by the current board of directors. Much of the equipment utilised by the company is both outdated and not fit for purpose. The stands and cubicles utilised where the multi-board system is used are a disgrace. They look tired and worn and are extremely difficult and time consuming to assemble. Much of the electronic equipment used to update the scores once matches reach the stage has also seen better days and is also outdated. Subsequently this is another area where a strategy urgently needs to be put into place to upgrade and where necessary replace the equipment currently being used.
The BDO during its inception had carte blanche of the darting world when it came to marketing; however this is another area in which the company has failed to move forward. The Open and Televised Events where marketing is set up and run is usually profitable and a worthwhile exercise, however as described in earlier sections these only amount to six events covering some 25 days of the year.
The inability of the board to see the enormous potential in this field has meant that many companies have emerged and in some cases their business is so strong that they employ several members of staff. The BDO has to form a strategy to find a place in this market and with that creating sustainable income which at present is going untapped.
The current system of providing officials is unmanageable. Too often at Open Events the control table is not only undermanned but also frequented by the same officials. At the end of the tournament those same officials have to perform duties on the stage, whether it is score recording, refereeing, marshalling players or just general duties. When it comes to the televised tournaments different officials then attend thus at times providing a skill shortage. A system has got to be introduced by where there are sufficient officials at all events to ensure that those present are not having to do either too many or conflicting jobs. Furthermore the Televised Events are the showcase events for the BDO. All those officiating at these events should have not only attended some or all of the Opens but excelled in their position. Therefore a strategy needs to be implemented by where County Officials are both encouraged and given the opportunity to find their niche at Open Tournaments. Having identified those people excelling in key areas, they should be the ones given the opportunity to replicate this at the Televised Events.
This is another area whereby the current Board of Directors has failed its members. The members gave the board a mandate to bring in a professional company to build and maintain its website. The company, namely Net Sports, by its own admission were naïve in the sport of darts; however they had run many other sites and were looking to test the types of systems which were successful in those other sports. The current Board of Directors however have failed in several areas. Whilst Net Sports built the website it has failed to provide several areas which are either desirable or essential to the sport of darts. Areas such as the previous history which was on the old website, links to other organisations, or an archive area are all examples of this. The front page is disjointed, has a poor impact and gives little reason for any new user to stay. Couple this with the poor speed of updates to major competitions the new site has not been managed by those responsible. Therefore it is essential for the BDO to utilise the skills of a member in conjunction with the Board and Net Sports to move the website in a positive forward direction.
The BDO have several areas within which both the WDF (World Darts Federation) and the EDC (European Darts Council) have responsibility and also interests. Because of these parallel interests and the stature of the BDO there are currently members of the BDO board sitting on both the WDF and EDC boards. Previously it has been identified where working with the WDF is an essential part of the progress required. There are several other areas of interest where all parties could be working together in a far more proactive manner to promote and improve the sport as a whole.
THE PROFFESIONAL [sic] GAME
If the BDO is to survive in its current format then the Professional, or top end, of the sport must be approached in a far more professional manner by the BDO. Ever since the inception of the PDC many players have just utilised the BDO as a stepping stone before moving across the divide.
This does not mean that millions of pounds need to be invested into the top end of the sport; moreover a direction needs to be found whereby players striving to get to the top of the game look towards the BDO as their focus rather than the PDC. It does mean that more money is required within tournaments it also means that players who go onto reach the latter stages of major tournaments are felt to be wanted at other events.
BDO RESPONSE: The PDC has 128 members, of whom probably no more than 25% of players earn enough to be professionals. It is run purely as a business for the benefit of the PDC and those 25% of players. It is the BUSINESS of darts.
The BDO was never set up to satisfy the needs of a few, but to provide darts for all – irrespective of age, gender or ability. It has the responsibility for thousands of players and officials and is the SPORT of darts.
The vast majority are working people who enjoy playing darts and the camaraderie of the social structure within the BDO. There has been a vibrant top end of BDO darts long before the PDC claimed that they had ‘discovered’ it. Flagship tournaments like the Masters and World Pro have been shop windows for all the top players, past and present, and there is no better exposure than that given by the BBC.
The IDPA has for many years claimed to be the player’s voice within the BDO, despite there being a Players Director sitting on the Board. The current Board of Directors have over several years consulted with the IDPA when initiating new ideas, or when problems have arisen. The IDPA have themselves either introduced or tried to introduce strategies, initiatives or ventures into the system. Currently the IDPA appears to have little impact on the sport. Their membership does not fully represent the top end of the game, which is where they see their role to exist. Subsequently it will be necessary to develop an association with the IDPA which provides a basis and substance for both their existence and their role within the sport.
BDO RESPONSE: We cannot possibly comment on this subject except to say that the BDO has always enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the IDPA.
Since its inception the PDC have set their own agenda, rules, regulations and guidelines all of which have been either directed at expanding their own side of the business or looking after their own players. In the meantime the BDO have failed to identify where the PDC sit within their system. The PDC has since its inception targeted the top end, be it the player or official, within the sport of darts. Several players have decided to play within the PDC system having previously played within the BDO system. The PDC has as earlier stated, provided their own rules, regulations and guidelines for these players. In the meantime the BDO since the Tomlin Order has failed to provide any adequate safeguarding for either its member counties or the playing members within its own system. Therefore a structure by which everybody has an identifiable position is essential. This might be on the one extreme that any member of the PDC is not allowed entrance into a venue controlled by the BDO, to any member of the PDC can play in every single event controlled by the BDO. The PDC currently has just128 playing members, so to provide a defined structure within which those members can or cannot participate within the BDO system is long overdue.
BDO RESPONSE: We shouldn’t even consider the PDC. They are a completely separate organisation with no affiliation to the BDO or its counties. They do not consider the BDO – except when ‘poaching players – and are run simply to make money for a few rather than look after the needs of the majority.
The Board of Directors of the BDO have appeared for several years to rest on their laurels created from the darting hey day of the 1970’s and 1980’s. They seemed to be in cruise control through the 1990’s and then looked like they were taking their foot off the pedal at the turn of the century. This has created a massive void whereby other companies, organisations or associations have undertaken roles which were previously exclusive to the BDO.
In order to re-establish the BDO as the controlling body of the game, whereby everyone looks up to the organisation will take several years. However a failure to act at this point in time will only act as putting a further nail in the coffin of the BDO. The Board of Directors must establish a working agenda and suitable timeline in which this work will be established.
At present the BDO has just one man for one job, which is fine until that one man is unable to do his job. When the job becomes vacant there is nobody who is able to pass on sufficient information to allow the work to be completed seamlessly. This has been highlighted by the website, the rights and the ability to place items onto the site rest with just one man. When he is unavailable the system does not work. The BDO must start to restructure itself whereby several people have the ability to continue the work of others. In the normal workplace where somebody takes leave or is missing for other reasons the company, or a significant portion of the company doesn’t just stop.
The Board of Directors must also implement several new strategies. The structuring of a Youth system, the restructuring of the BICC and the structuring of tournament play within the system must all be at the forefront of the new plans.
The introduction of online registrations for tournaments, together with dedicated membership numbers are other areas which need to be explored.
The current rules of darts need to be addressed with this being an instance where a group of senior members on both the playing and officiating front could work in unison.
In short following the AGM it is time for the board of the BDO to once again start working for its members, come up with a plan of action, inform its members of the plan and then implement the said plan.
This will almost certainly include some individuals who represent their counties taking a greater responsibility, similarly it will mean more individuals having to put their name to the plate and share the jobs around. It is time for the system to start working together which if it does will see significant rewards not only financial but also in just gratification for everyone.