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Events may have to “bite the bullet” this year admits PDC Chief Executive

Jamie Shaw in PDC Darts News 26 Mar 2020
The PDPA has stepped in to offer financial assistance (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

PDC Chief Executive Matthew Porter admits some events may have to be scrapped to allow for the rescheduling of others later in the year.

The PDC tournament calendar has been decimated by postponements due to the Coronavirus pandemic, with numerous events having been put back to the second half of the season.

The Unibet Premier League will now be fragmented across several months and is currently due to finish in October, however the scheduled events for May are also likely to be re-arranged.

European Tour events and Players Championships have also been affected, and with no set date as to when live sport is permitted to resume, the PDC is facing a logistical nightmare over dates and venue availability.

Speaking on the Darts Show podcast, Porter revealed more Premier League nights are likely to be moved and the backlog could mean some smaller events may be forced to make way.

He said: “We’ve announced that all the Premier League nights up to the end of April are postponed [and it’s] more than likely the May ones will be as well but we’re working through the challenges associated with those and we’ll fit things back into our calendar as best we can, probably in the second half of 2020.

“So far, we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to reschedule every night for a Thursday, which is good because I think people associate Thursdays with Premier League darts, so we can keep that continuity even if it does mean we’re in the second half of the year.

“We don’t want to go too late because of the other big events we have in the lead-up to Christmas, so we’ll get as much done throughout the summer and early part of the autumn as we can.

“It is difficult. Venue availability is key, things have got to fit in geographically, we can’t be in two places at once – we need time to build events and then take them down again afterwards – we’ve obviously got commitments to fans, broadcasters, sponsors, venues and all sorts of different stakeholders.

“We’re working through it. Fortunately, we were a bit ahead of the game, we spoke to a lot of venues three or four weeks ago on this just to pre-empt it, so we’ve had back-up dates held for longer than perhaps other promoters have.

“It might be that a couple of events away from the top tier have to bite the bullet for this year, and that might be something we look at, because ultimately there’s only so many weekends in the year. We hope to put on as much of it on as possible.”

The PDC operates a two-year Order of Merit, and with some players facing relegation from the tour at the end of the season and others due to defend large amounts of prize money in the coming months, questions have been raised over how the ranking system will be affected.

Porter discussed the possibility of introducing events in a controlled environment once restrictions on movement and travel are lifted.

He added: “In theory, darts can be played behind closed doors as long as there’s two players and somebody to keep score.

“It could be possible, we’d obviously have to bear in mind Government advice and restrictions – would venues be open, what would the conditions be like?

“It’s not impossible, but I don’t think anything’s going to be happening for a while.”

“We are looking at what we’re doing with the rankings.

“It’s not something we’ve come to any sort of decision over yet, we’re in the early stages of disruption but obviously we will work with the PDPA, who are very good on the fairness and looking out for all the different categories of member.

“Although everybody’s got a Tour Card on the main tour, not everybody’s in the same boat; some people are extremely comfortable, others less so, some are defending a lot from two years ago, others less so.

“So we have to make sure that changes, if we make any at all, are completely transparent and fair for everybody. But hopefully if we can get as many events staged as possible, then we can still give players as much chance as possible to top their rankings up.”

Porter also spoke of the possibility of staging more behind closed doors events such as Players Championships in order to ensure as many income opportunities as possible for players across the spectrum.

However, the ever-changing situation means the PDC is unable to commit to event dates and is keep regular contact with players via the PDPA.

“At the moment, we don’t want to look too long-term. It’s a new situation, an ever-changing situation and we don’t know what it’s going to be like in six weeks, six months,” added Porter.

“I think it’s fair to say that you can write off most of the next three months, that’s going to be a difficult position to try and get anything up and running again.

“Whether the restrictions are relaxed at some point in the future and we’re able to put events on – tour events for the players’ benefit only in controlled situations with extremely limited numbers of people and certain health and safety regulations in place – that’s just speculation.

“None of us know, but we’re conscious of the fact that darts players are self-employed and that, technically, they’re not really earning any sort of income at the moment.

“Some of them might be fortunate enough to have sponsors who are still paying them, but those who rely on prize money and exhibition income are going to be struggling.

“We’ll speak to the PDPA about that and we don’t want to see anybody fall off the radar in that respect – it’s important that players are communicating with us if they do find themselves in a difficult position, and if we have to look at putting things together to help them through these times then so be it.”