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Editor's column, June 2015 - One small step for Martin, one giant leap for darts

Jamie Shaw in Editor's Column 17 Jun 2015
Phil Taylor and Martin Adams share the stage at the 2001 World Matchplay in Blackpool (credit:Tom Shaw/ALLSPORT)

After eight years of darting defiance, Martin Adams has finally grasped the chance to showcase his calibre on the Grand Slam stage - a decision which could go some way towards breaking the barrier between darts' two rival codes.

Forget Kim Kardashian, Adams practically broke the internet on Tuesday when he announced his decision to accept an invitation to the 2015 Grand Slam of Darts, sending social media into overdrive. 

After repeatedly snubbing the PDC's offer of a place in the sport's biggest cross-code event since its inception in 2007, the BDO's most decorated thrower made a sensational U-turn.

Adams will turn 60 next year and there can be no denying the fact that he is in the midst of the final chapter of his career. He remains, however, one of the most formidable forces on the BDO circuit, as emphasised by his run to January's Lakeside final.

Cut Adams open and he will bleed BDO. England captain for more than 20 years, he has won almost everything there is to win on the BDO circuit and even joined the board of directors, before resigning in 2012. 

His stance towards the PDC has been one of loyalty and firm defiance, so why did he finally accept Barry Hearn's olive branch this time around?

The plot thickened when a BBC radio interview surfaced, with Adams claiming the only reason he had accepted the invite was to honour the wishes of the BDO. Had he otherwise not been advised to compete in Wolverhampton, he admitted he would "probably" have declined.

Any major event which brings together players from both sides of the darting divide should be celebrated, and the Grand Slam continues to hold down that unique element. 

It is a lucrative tournament which has historically been embraced by players from the BDO - who look upon it as a chance to pit their wits against the sport's household names, fly the flag for the BDO and bag themselves a timely pay-day a month before Christmas.

Darts has attracted a new, younger audience over the past five years, many of whom remain blissfully unaware of the tug of war which threatened to kill the sport in the early 90s.

In summary, up until 1993, darts was governed by one sole organisation - the BDO. That was before 16 disgruntled players decided to break away and form their own darts body in response to the decline in TV coverage and sponsorship opportunities.

That World Darts Council (WDC) later became the PDC, and the rest is history. While the two organisations have since existed in direct competition, one has been on an upward spiral, the other on a steady decline.

Court battles, orders restricting players as to which events they can compete in and the close proximity of the respective World Championships in the calendar have meant that relations between the two rival codes have remained frosty to this day.

The BDO has been responsible for nurturing some of the PDC's present biggest names, including world number one Michael van Gerwen, five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld and reigning World Champion - Gary Anderson - who have all made the leap of faith over the past decade.

Darts' ironically now has its own unofficial 'transfer window' each January, with a flurry of players linked with a move to the PDC via Qualifying School, the most notable of which over the past 18 months include Stephen Bunting, Alan Norris, Robbie Green and James Wilson.

Winning the Lakeside title was once the pinnacle of a player's career, but it now seems the only way a player can truly fulfil their darting destiny is within the PDC ranks - where earning opportunities are vastly superior and competition is brutal. 

With TV exposure at a premium and prize money barely sufficient for the majority to earn a comfortable living from, the BDO now prides itself in making darts accessible at for all at grass roots level and has perhaps acknowledged its role as a feeder to the global brand that is the PDC.

Four years since founder Olly Croft was voted off the board of directors, the BDO has undergone significant changes at board level and without Croft's rose-tinted glasses, it appears to have accepted it is fighting a losing battle. 

Prior to the World Cup of Darts, the PDC and BDO were in direct liaison over the changes to the structure of November's Grand Slam - which will now feature eight BDO players alongside 24 PDC stars.

Half of that eight are invited based on their achievements over the past 12 months, with Lakeside Champion Scott Mitchell, World Masters Champion Martin Phillips, World Trophy winner Geert De Vos and most notably Lakeside runner-up Adams handed a golden ticket to Wolverhampton. 

Scott Mitchell is rumoured to be among next year's Q School line-up (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Crucially, though, the other four will derive from two separate qualifying events to be held in Hull and Europe later in the year. 

An unprecedented move will see the BDO stage their own qualifying events for a PDC tournament - something which has not happened since the infamous split over two decades ago.

Last December, in the first step towards a peace settlement, the BDO abolished the 365-day rule following an overwhelming vote of approval from its member counties.

This rule, introduced in 2013, did not allow entry to a BDO event if a player was a member of any organisation that was not recognised by the BDO or had participated in any unsanctioned event within the last 365 days.

It's been six years since Hearn tested the water with a generous £1million bid to buy out the BDO and unify the sport. That offer was bluntly turned down by a man who refused to swallow his pride, and in hindsight, it was Croft's biggest own goal. 

But it appears the BDO are finally beginning to learn from their mistakes and work with the best interests of the sport at heart. 

The PDC have the financial muscle, resources and know-how to build on the BDO's foundations and take the game forward at all levels, and with the two tungsten tribes seemingly willing to co-operate, there may never be a better time for them to finally bury the hatchet.

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Editor's column, June 2015 - One small step for Martin, one giant leap for darts

After eight years of darting defiance, Martin Adams has finally grasped the chance to showcase his calibre on the Grand Slam stage - a decision which could go some way towards breaking the barrier between darts' two rival codes.

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