The changes made to the Lakeside World Darts championship last year gave the BDO the opportunity to shine, and someone somewhere seems to have turned the lights on – the 2014 iteration was a qualified success.
Despite the BBC entirely ignoring the opportunity to rethink how the event is presented, the tournament had much to relish – not least some world class performances (and some thrilling lesser quality matches), the emergence of Alan ‘Chuck’ Norris as a new star, a host of interesting ‘overseas’ debutants, and a worthy champion in Stephen Bunting.
Next stop for the BDO players – at least for those who didn’t try their hand at the PDC Q School last week – is Blackpool. The new World Trophy takes place from 4-9 February, and is the first offering from the BDO’s new commercial partner, BDO Events. With sponsorship secured from the Daily Mirror, TV coverage on Eurosport, and several names that, if not quite household are certainly ‘pub-hold’ (Adams, Bunting, O’Shea, Waites) the tournament has plenty going for it, including an unprecedented second airing for women’s darts in just a few weeks. Add in Ted Hankey trying to negotiate a way through qualifying, and a wildcard to the main event for Andy Fordham, and what could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot, as it happens. Eurosport’s coverage of darts is patchy at best; players who don’t qualify will be rather upset about ranking points being awarded to wildcards; qualifiers in a northern coastal town on a weekday rule out most amateur darters from having a crack; and Blackpool in February may be a harder venue to fill than in the summer – when the annual PDC World Matchplay plays out in a bursting Winter Gardens.
The refreshed BDO has to start somewhere, of course, and it took the PDC more than a decade to create a product that works for broadcasters, players and fans alike – and that was only after accepting that it needed some help, which arrived in the form of Barry Hearn and Matchroom.
Hearn’s first big idea was taking darts around the UK on a weekly basis, and, noting the maxim that only those with no memory insist on their originality (thanks Coco), BDO events will, according to the website, be launching its own ‘Super Series’ in July.
Featuring the ‘best 12 players in the world’, the ‘much anticipated climax to the BDO season’ is due to include Stephen Bunting and at least the top 10 in the current rankings. It’ll be interesting to see how Geert de Vos, Gary Robson and Remco van Eijden pull in the punters (and whether those players with jobs have understanding bosses).
BDO Events is staking a great deal on the Super Series and their very own darting revolution, but who is to say that it won’t become the cash cow that feeds the rest of the BDO year. The PDC Premier League started out with Roland Scholten and Mark Dudbridge throwing to mediocre crowds at the Dome Leisure Centre in Doncaster and Kidderminster’s Glades Arena; it is now the largest indoor sporting event in Britain. With the PDC continuing to grow, the world of amateur darts faces a crucial twelve months, once again.