Tag Archives: Lakeside

World Championship Darts and The Lakeside Myth.

The Lakeside. Venue & main sponsor for BDO World Championship Darts.

The Lakeside. Venue & main sponsor for BDO World Championship Darts.

 

With the recent announcement that the BBC will be covering a new darts event, staged by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), and featuring the top 8 players in the world, it can be argued that professional darts is now able to expand and reach a huge audience of both armchair fans and potential new players.
Of course, this news has also lead to much discussion regarding the long-running split in darts, which took place in 1993, and the future of players and events that are staged by The British Darts Organisation (BDO). The main source of concern seems to be the future of the BDO “World Championship” often referred to as The Lakeside.
The event is known as such due to its current venue and the fact that, in order to avoid classing it as a world championship, the PDC, and others, refer to winners of the event post-1993 as being “Lakeside” Champions.

The famous Lakeside stage.

The famous Lakeside stage.

The tournament itself is the continuation of the first darts world championship, held in 1978. The famous trophy is iconic in the sport and contains the names of those, Rees, Lowe Bristow, Wilson, Deller, Anderson, Priestley & Taylor to name a few, who built the game’s popularity over its initial glory period and then through to its current PDC Sky TV incarnation.

The Myth

Over the years the history of the event, the fact that it was the first incarnation, and its more recent venue have become into twinned to create a myth of Lakeside and its importance.
The first edition of, what is regarded as, Darts’ World Championship was actually held in The Heart of the Midlands Club in Nottingham and won by Leighton Rees. The event proved popular and featured an Englishman, Welshman (Rees) a Swede and an American in the semifinals.

1st World Champion. Played at The Heart of The Midlands Club.

1st World Champion. Played at The Heart of The Midlands Club.

The next seven events were held in Jollies Cabaret Club in Stoke on Trent. These events from 1979 until 1985 are regarded by most as darts first golden age. Most great memories of the game from its early TV days are formed here, the battles between Bristow and Lowe, the remarkable Jockey Wilson managing to claim the title against the rock that was Lowe and Kieth Deller managing to defeat all three of them to win his only title, whilst looking like The Milky Bar Kid! These were the kickstart that saw darts boom and created an opportunity for a truly professional game to later emerge.

The games initial great era was built in Jollies in Stoke on Trent.

The games initial great era was built in Jollies in Stoke on Trent.

The event then moved to its new home at The Lakeside Country Club. For the next 8 years, it could claim to be the home of the world darts championship and created some great memories of its own. Jocky’s incredible second win, Bob Anderson finally claiming the ultimate prize and the emergence of two fellows by the name of Taylor and Priestley.

A legend begins.

The Power, 14 world titles have been collected away from Lakeside.

So, from Its start in ’78 till ’93, the World Championship was played eight times at The Lakeside and eight elsewhere. Thus its claim, to be the spiritual home of darts or even The World Championship, is tenuous at best.
From 1994 there have been two rival world championships. Owing to the split between the top players and the BDO who arranged the events until that time. The WDC (later PDC) held their event, featuring all active world champions to that point and most of the top 32 world ranked players, at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet, whilst the BDO continued to use Lakeside. Each event is still providing stories and star players today. Over time the PDC retained the better players or attracted more with numerous TV events and higher prize money while the BDO and Lakeside remained substantively the same for the next 22 years.
Thus from 1994 onward, the Lakeside has held what, at best, can be described as a “version” of the World Championship, whilst another is held featuring the majority of the best players. Alternatively, the event could be described as a World Amateur Championship which happens to carry prize money!

The BDO circuit could easily be compared to The Championship, in football, with PDC darts as The Premiership. Lakeside could be similarly compared to the Play-Offs. The main difference being the winners don’t have to accept promotion and can choose to continue playing in and dominating the lower league.

BDO World Champ , Scott Mitchell, chose to remain within the system.

BDO World Champ, Scott Mitchell, chose to remain within the system.

Meanwhile PDC venues have  established their own spiritual homes of professional darts, with The Circus Tavern being the testing ground for the development of an event, and product, that can be deemed fit to be played on Pay For and Free to Air TV, and in front of  tens of thousands of fans, at The Alexendra Palace in London. The Winter Gardens in Blackpool, home of The World Matchplay and The Civic Hall in Wolverhampton for The Grand Slam of Darts, to name but two, have been enthusiastically adopted by darts fans producing superb and unique atmosphere’s of their own. The Euro tour is also producing such venues. Rotterdam & Dortmund are looking likely to become iconic.

Winter Gardens as dart venue

Solutions.

The current situation of the British Darts Organisation raises a genuine concern for the health of the amateur game and the future of two of the most iconic event in darts. The Original World Championship and The (Winmau) World Masters. Both of these are classic events with long-running histories. Where they are held is almost irrelevant, the truth is that they need to be well run and well marketed in order to ensure their continued survival.

The solution seems relatively simple. Forget the myth of Lakeside or any other venue. A world championship should be where the very best players have the opportunity to qualify and compete against each other during a single regular event. Thus the “Original” World Championship Darts Trophy should handed to the PDC in order that they run one professional world championship each year. Both the Classic & Sid Waddell Trophies would be awarded to the winner. In exchange for this, the PDC should support the running of a World “Amateur” Championship. Possibly for the Olly Croft Trophy.

Any player who has won or, possibly, reached the final of either current version should be granted an exemption into a prelim or qualifying round for the next five to ten years (golf manages this pretty well and it may assist in the transition). Other, time-limited exemptions, may be possible after discussions. The result should be one Professional World Championship and other tournaments in which the very best players qualify or have the opportunity to do so.

In exchange for this the PDC should support the running of a World “Amateur” Championship and lend its management and marketing expertise to the BDO, or other organisation, in order to stabilize the situation and ensure that an amateur system, such as currently exists with superleague & county darts, continues to thrive on a strong and secure footing.

The World Masters could then be staged as a single event open to all players amateur and professionals from across the globe, without its recent late-stage seeded format, jointly run and marketed by the two circuits.

Former PDC director Tommy Cox has offered to come out of retirement and help. His experience in directing tournaments all over the globe in ever-changing times could prove a masterstroke. The amateur circuit could include many current popular events and opens and the money earned viewed as expenses.

Without such an accommodation the consequences will be very damaging, the BDO “World Championship” & World Masters may be reduced to streamed or minority channel events, poorly produced, watched by few and cared about by less. The darts product has been superbly built over 40 years, first by the BDO and Olly Croft , then through the PDC via Tommy Cox & Barry Hearn.

It should not be cheapened, risked or demeaned due to pettiness, spite and or incompetence.

Grand Slam of Darts 2015 – Part III – The Last 16

The Singha Beer Grand Slam 2015 is looking good so far!

The Singha Beer Grand Slam 2015 is looking good so far!

So, with the preliminaries and mini drams are over its time for the survivors to battle it out over a longer stretch.
This years group stages have been full of emotional value, a few controversial elements and a very high standard of darts. The sheer number of players, from both codes, averaging over 100 during the group stages gives an indication but the the number of players winning games with lower average scores also tells a tale of matchplay skills being as important, if not more so, as averages!
In Part II, we cut through the hype and suggested the likely last 16 and the likely scores between the codes, not always the obvious choices either, despite many close calls, we did pretty well.
Qualifiers: Not a bad effort here, out of the 16 to make it through we identified 12. Three more could still have qualified on their last game. Steve Beaton & Larry Butler also confirmed the suggestions that they would cause drama and defy expectation in their groups!

PDC vs BDO

BDO Reps showed they can play but mainly fell short.

BDO Reps showed they can play but mainly fell short.

The BDO repesentatives had a very mixed time. Adams demonstrated what we have always known, that he can play! The rest, had very good moments, provided some great stories and drama, but could not quite live with the consistent level of those who play PDC on a professional basis. This being the first time that they have been split evenly across the groups with none of their fellow code members or other invitees to play with.

The PDC then come out of the group stage 15-1 up. The only elite level player in the 8 BDO representatives comes through comfortably and could well have made a Premier League case for 1 or more BDO members.

A special mention for, PDC qualifier, Johnny Clayton, who made a superb debut in beating Terry Jenkins and acquitted himself very well overall. It has been a while since a PDC wildcard qualifier made a dent at the GSoD but Clayton gave it a great shot, hopefully he will use it as inspiration to go further.

The BDO have provided the better stories and drama so far, Andy Fordham qualifying, and then overcoming enormous emotion to win a game, and compete in his others, will live long in the memory of anyone with a sporting soul! Gert De Vos hitting a 115 average, after being distinctly average in his early games, was a great reminder that huge talent exists in darts whatever code, age or nationality you look at.

Then, of course there is Wolfie. He seems very relaxed and non- fussed about the whole affair, the huge advantage of no ranking pressure? However the skills he honed as ambassador for BDO darts and England are being used to the max as he goes along charming folk all the way.

Do not underestimate the cunning of the Wolf! He has prepared well and is very determined!

BDO certainly provided great stories, drama and added interest.

BDO certainly provided great stories, drama and added interest.

So far then it would be fair to say that both organisations have performed  well this week and done themselves no harm at all. 

Best of 19 – A Sterner Test.

With the large averages, seen so far, it would appear that many players are in superb form. This may be a bit misleading. With PDC rankings now at stake it was clear that many players hit the gas earlier than previously in this event, they looked ready to go from the off and produced superb bursts of play. That will be more difficult for many of them to sustain over the coming rounds with longer matches in store. A look at the challenges in store should give us more insight.

Thornton v Green

The Thorn is in fine fettle, after victory in the World Grand Prix he could kick on again here and be a threat for the title. Kong has done well to recapture some form in the last couple of months, after injury, but will do well to last the pace.

(Thornton to win by 3 or more legs.)

Taylor v Jenkins

PhilTaylor Bullet dart pic

Terry has played himself back into the top ten with some solid stuff. Despite a few wobbles in the group, he seems to always do that at ‘the Slam. Taylor however is majorly motivated, or determined to create that impression. The Fordham stuff is over and it will be simply a matter of finding his long game. The extra games have given The Power more time to work out some of the recent niggles and this match should give him opportunity to kick on another level.

(Taylor to win by 3 or more legs)

Anderson v Webster

These two have had a few interesting moments at the GSoD but i think this one will be more predictable. Anderson simply needs to get off to the quicker start to put any doubts to bed here. Webby is getting back which is superb to see but this may be a bridge to far, too soon.

(Anderson to win by 3 or more legs)

Wade v RVB

Both did exactly what was required of them in the group stages. Barney flattered to deceive against Anderson but did the job in the other games, Wade controlled his group very well and eased through. This is a bit of a 50/50. Barney needs run here to assist his overall rankings and the pressure may tip the balance to Wade.

(Wade to win in a thriller)

MVG v Beaton

Will The Adonis put the cat amongst the pigeons again?

Will The Adonis put the cat amongst the pigeons again?

On a personal level Steve qualifying was one of the stories of the Grand Slam, he looks very focused and determined. His group was the toughest overall and he played it perfectly. He will again be a huge underdog but don’t forget his incredible win over Taylor here a few years back.

The Adonis has enough talent to beat anyone on a given day. MVG however has moved into the mode of Bristow & Talyor. Not happy with winning, in imperious fashion, he is starting to add the bullying mentality to his overall persona. It is an interesting development given his rivalry with Anderson who plays the opposite role, jovial and carefree, and sets up a long term rivalry very well.

Steve must start well and not let the Green Machine get away. If he does we could be in for a classic. However I suspect that MVG will not allow him in.

(MVG to win)

Adams vs Huybrechts

Beware "The Wolfie"

Beware “The Wolfie”

This one is very interesting. Lets be honest, although has has played exceptionally well Wolfie has been incredibly lucky in his opponents and has again in the last 16. He has played players with very strong BDO links who have history with or against him and who have been burdened with extra ranking pressures whereas he is free to just play. Again here he has drawn a recent BDO convert who he will be familiar with and feel he has nothing to fear from. Kim is still playing pretty well but will have to be consistent,  keep the rubbish out of his head, and play the darts Adams produces on the day, not the past or the hype. One slight bonus for Kim is that Jelle Klassen, who was in Adams group, is part of the same playing stable , thus discussions or tactical advise may have taken place. To Kim’s advantage is the legs format. If he can get a run under his belt, Adams cannot use a swift surge to peg him back.

(Adams to win 10-8)

Smith v Chizzy

Dave Chisnall

Usual, blow for blow, game here. The two St Helens men will simply try to blast each other off the stage. The rhythm of the game will be superb and may lead to more 9 dart chances. Funnily enough these two have not met on TV before. Chizzy has the better record in head to heads and has done better on TV overall.

(Chizzy to win by 3 legs or more)

Snakebite vs Jackpot

adrian lewis

The game should be much like the Chizzy – Smith match, quick fire, no messing about and some superb spells of darts. Wright seems slightly off the boil, to me at the moment, so Jackpot should take advantage, of this now being a ranking event, and go on a good run.

N.B. Jackpot may well be building for something a bit special at the Worlds, just an inkling!

Adrian to win by 3 legs or more.

The escape from the group stage may lead to a drop in intensity for this round and thus I have gone for most games being relatively comfortable for the winner. The clash between Adams and Huybrechts is the one which could ignite the round. If Kim falls for the Wolfie factor, as did Ian White, he could be swept up but if he just plays his own game the way he has been Adams will be under severe pressure in a longer format and may struggle. The rest of the event could then become a parade of the usual suspects with the main question being whether Taylor can get back and reassert himself over Anderson & MVG. Either way a promising event is at hand after a great start.

The Grand Slam of Darts 2015 – First Real Grand Slam?

This year's GSoD could be a superb event to be associated with for Singha Beer.

This year’s GSoD could be a superb event to be associated with for Singha Beer.

Part 1 – Line Up & Background.

Much is being made of the Singha Beer Grand Slam of Darts this year. The combination of a great format, newly ranked by the PDC, a few fairy tales,climb downs and fierce old rivalries have combined to bring interest to a peak.

The entry of Martin Adams, three time BDO (British Darts Organisation) World Champion, into the event has brought much interest and controversy. Not least due to Adams previously refusing to play and been rather uncomplimentary about the PDC ( Professional Darts Corporation) and its chairman, Barry Hearn.

Beware "The Wolfie"

Beware “The Wolfie”

Nevertheless SKY, never known to miss a good hype job, have made much of his entry and together with the hugely popular, across all divides, Andy “The Viking” Fordham, Wolfie will lead the challenge of the BDO players amid a barrage of noise, and possibly a bit of stick, from the famously vociferous Wolverhampton crowd.

Fordham 2015

Real Grand Slam?

Indeed it could be argued that this year may be the first real Grand Slam. Players that have excelled in a variety of codes/organisations have qualified, with the early stages looking far more balanced than in previous years.

For the first time 8 BDO players were selected through a combination of ranking/championship results and a wild card qualifier. The 8 players have been placed into the eight separate groups for the round robin stage of the event. This places them with a PDC seed, A PDC Automatic Qualifier and a PDC Wildcard qualifier.

However due to the hoopla surrounding Adams, and the feel good factor about Fordham, many in this years field have been quietly forgotten or down played.

The nature of the qualifiers, the closer entwining with European darts and better relations between the two organisations means that the field features 8 non PDC or affiliated players in the traditional sense. Previous Grand Slams have featured invited players for many differing reasons, Women’s representatives under various banners, youth representatives, North American representatives etc. Together with a handful of BDO players selected both on a talent and entertainment basis. There are very few of the invited contestants this time.

Thus for the first time every group is made up of a top 8 PDC player, then another from 8 who are classed in the top bracket as well as a third “form PDC Player” who qualified through a very tough wildcard event only a couple of weeks ago. No BDO player has another in their group and possibly only Martin Phillips can be classed as having an invitee. The other invitee Keegan Brown has since claimed a Pro Tour event and appeared on TV/ Stage a number of times.

The 8 ‘BDO Representatives’ are really nothing of the sort. Times have changed and a whole different type of player has made it through to the Grand Slam.

1) Martin Adams: Although Adams may have been the BDO poster boy for the last few years he has competed in a number of events with players of both codes in the past reaching the semi’s and qtrs of what are now flagship PDC events.

2) Andy Fordham: The Viking, played PDC events for a couple of years recently and has often been involved in promotional events and other activities with SKY and the PDC. Thus he will be more than familiar with the atmosphere, methods and players within the PDC system.

3) Larry Buttler: The Bald Eagle, should be the story of the event so far, his remarkable last few weeks of world wide darts included qualifying for the grand slam and reaching the final of Winmau World Masters. But, as any follower knows, this guy is a class act. He is already a PDC major Champion, having claimed the World Matchplay title by defeating Dennis Priestley in 1994. He also has recent PDC experience with the World Cup of Darts in 2014. The only enemy that Larry has may be tiredness, he has played a huge amount of the highest quality darts recently and at 58, he may not have been planning for it.

Larry Bald Eagle

4) Scott Mitchell: Current Lakeside World Champion and perhaps the most representative of the majority of BDO players of recent times. He is well liked by all and does not seem to play the code v code game. Has little experience of the PDC system, but his status and popularity may help him find his best.

Scott Mitchell

5) Martin Phillips: Another very well liked and talented player who has played the Grand Slam enough to know what to expect. Status as elder statesman,without the edge that follows Adams, combined with very high ability especially in the short early stages.

6-8) Oosterhuis, Van Der Horst & De Vos: These three players are the lesser known by the majority of the public and perhaps even the PDC players. As well as being part of the Belgian sporting boom, De Vos has won a TV major but will be relatively unknown to many. The other two are the qualifiers from the, Dutch Association organised, European qualifier.  Oosterhuis is limited on experience and has non of the PDC way and Van der Horst is much the same but with less form that is visible.

The long and short of this is that, rather than PDC vs BDO, the 2015 GSoD is Current PDC vs 5 seriously well qualified & experienced players, 4 of whom have PDC / Mixed Code / Grand Slam experience, and 3 more who have also qualified in very tough ways but do not yet have huge amounts of experience to fall back on.

In Part II, I shall have a look at the groups and see who is likely to be making an early exit and who could go on and do some real damage. Will the full time pro’s of the PDC make hay and demonstrate the higher level claimed by their supporters? or will the fact that the non PDC players will not be pressured by rankings or expectation mean that they have the upper hand? Many shocks and surprises occur in the GSoD and this year will be no exception.

 

The Adonis – Steve Beaton – A Legend in his Own Time

The Bronzed Adonis in Fine Form

The Bronzed Adonis in Fine Form

Often sport throws up its own version of the famed curse ” may you live in interesting times”. Players of the highest ability seem to be less appreciated due to truly exceptional players, or rivalries, taking the limelight throughout their own careers. In tennis, Andy Murray is unfortunate enough to straddle the careers of Federer, Nadal & Jokovic for example.

Sometimes there is also a case of familiarity breeds contempt. Although, as in this case, it is not usually contempt but merely taking players, and their achievements or contribution, for granted.
Since the early 1980’s one dart player has competed with the greats from at least three glorious eras for professional darts. Initially he was there as a young player competing, and often winning, against the original TV heroes of the game. The Crafty Cockney, Old Stoneface, The Limestone Cowboy, Jockey and the rest.

Move into the 1990’s and he had claimed his own place at the highest table,becoming World Champion and winning other major and TV events. In the 2000’s, not being one to duck the big challenges, or play the big fish in little pond, he joined the PDC. Without the fanfare, promises or advantages, that some receive today, he joined right in the middle of “The Taylor Years” and produced more superb results as well as twice battling back from the usual professional slumps and life knocks that all mere mortals suffer. Steve “The Bronzed Adonis” Beaton will, once again, appear on our screens very soon at The Grand Slam of Darts.

Showing few signs of letting up, this legendary career is now over 30 years long. It seems a good time to appreciate what should be regarded as a phenomenal career.

Early Days.

Although Steve did not become a full-time professional until the early 1990’s this was mainly due to the difficult time for professional darts, caused through poor image and lack of sponsorship & televised tournaments, from the mid 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s. He had however made his TV bow in the Double Diamond Masters, televised by ITV in 1984. He was narrowly defeated, at the Qtr Final stage, by the event winner, Dave Lee, other Qtr finalists included Bob Anderson, Keith Deller and Mike Gregory. The same year Steve made his World Masters Debut reaching the last 32, losing out to multiple world champion John Lowe.

With the opportunities to play professionally increasing Steve made huge progress in the early 1990’s. He began to reach the later stages, of the bigger BDO opens, regularly and was runner-up in the 1991 Gold Cup.

Giant Strides.

1993 was a true bounty year for Steve and set the tone for the career that was to come. A run to the Semi Finals of the BDO World Championships was the marker, over the next few months he won The British Pentathlon, British Matchplay, as well as several large opens, before being part of the England team that landed the WDF World Cup. The year would be highlighted by Steve becoming The World Master and thus claiming his first major TV title.

The next couple of years seemed to be a case of nearly but not quite. After a rousing, defense of his Masters title which he lost in the final to Richie Burnett, Steve captured the European Cup Singles and team titles but was eliminated twice in the first round of the World Championships.

Immortality

Steve joins the immortals.

Steve joins the immortals.

The World Championship hoodoo was put to bed in emphatic style in January 1996. If ever a dart player silenced his critics in style then this was it, Steve had had to put up with much comment about bottle and choking etc. due to his early defeats when favourite for the event. To win the event Steve had to defeat Co Stompe, John Part, Martin Adams, Andy Fordham and then Richie Burnett. I cannot recall another champion having to get past 4 consecutive world champions in order to win their own.

With a number of larger open wins, and another WDF Team World Cup title, 1996 was similar to his efforts of 1993, but this time as reigning World Champion!

Over the next few years Steve regularly reached the later stages of BDO events and the larger opens. During the conflict between the BDO and PDC darting organisation Steve regularly played the TV events organised by the PDC reaching the Semi Final of the 2001 World Matchplay.

Crossing the floor.

With more changes to the eligibility criteria, the move to the PDC full-time started with The World Professional Championships of 2002, in which Steve reached the last 16, less than a month after his appearance in the BDO World Masters. Due to a legal cross over some events remained accessible to players of both codes.

Las Vegas in the 2000's

Las Vegas in the 2000’s

Steve adjusted to the tour style of the PDC quickly and reached the semi finals of a PDC(1)(now classed as the Pro Tour) sanctioned event almost immediately. In addition he hit a 9 Dart Finish in the Irish Masters as well as again reaching the Semi Final of the World Masters. The first couple of years on the PDC tour could be seen as a steady process with qtr and semi final appearances in many floor events. However a Semi Final in the World Grand Prix of 2004 showed that he still had what it took, on stage, at the highest level.

Tough Times & Turn Arounds!

From The World Grand Prix of 2004 through to the start of the 2009 season could be described as the leanest of Steve career to date. The appearances in the later stages of the floor event fell away and early exits from the TV events became routine. His ranking slipped and things looked bleak.

Yet from this low point came a remarkable resurgence that, due to the fact he never quite went away, was barely noticed. Over that season Steve reached multiple Qtr, Semi Finals & Finals on the Pro Tour including becoming the Austrian Open Champion, the last 16 of The World Matchplay & The World Grand Prix and most remarkably, reached his first PDC major final. Losing out to Phil Taylor after removing Adrian Lewis, MVG, Mark Walsh & James Wade. This earned him in a place in The Grand Slam of Darts, for the first time, where he reached the last 16, less than a month later.

It would be fair to say that for the next 12 months Steve would consolidate the return without many stand out results, although good steady performances were ensuring his ranking was solid and he would be around for a while yet. The Autumn of 2010 would provide us with yet more proof that “The Adonis” could still rumble with the best and would be doing so for years to come.

After making his Grand Slam debut the year before, Steve was entitled to a second appearance, due to his major final at the Europeans of 2009. A very good run in The Champions League of Darts put those of us who are fans on guard for what was to come. Steve made it through a tough group stage with a superb, do or die, 5-1 win over Paul Nicholson. In the round of 16 he counted out double world champ Ted Hankey in a comfortable 10-6 win and would play The Power in his first big 5 Qtr final for a long time. If you love sport , natural ability and characters Steve performance will stick with you for a long time. Twice Steve won 5 legs in a row against the greatest to ever play. Both times he was in danger of being routed, and yet despite being 13-9 and 14-11 down he produced the 2nd run of 5 legs to win the match and reach the Semi Final.

Steve Beaton 2014 15

Sadly the tournament ended there for Steve with a 16-9 defeat to Scott Waites. It should be noted though that the scheduling of the semi was grossly unfair. Beaton, despite playing last the previous evening in a titanic struggle, was scheduled to play his semi final first the following day. “The Power” would not have had to contend with such nonsense!

Doing it in Style.

Throughout this superb career you hear darts players, and  fans, mentioning the same things over and over again, style, charisma, natural, relaxed, gentlemanly. Every now and then on social media, or internet forums, there will be a discussion of who has the best throw or is simply the best to watch live. Despite not being in the top ten or as well known as Eric, John Lowe, Phil or Hankey, MVG or Gary Anderson, The Adonis regularly comes out at, or near, the very top. This is simply because his throw really is a thing of simplicity and wonder.

Steve has always seemed to understand that the other elements of the game, such as TV, Walk On, interviews , exhibitions, promotions and sponsors, are necessary  and seems to naturally carry such obligation of with ease. After all anyone who can get away with the “Bronzed Adonis” tag, and walking on to Staying Alive with his shirt open in a seventies style, into his fifties must have something? His laid back approach and regular visits to Tennerife, to top up the bronze, belie the fact that he is a fierce competitor who excels in most things, as anyone who has played golf with him will agree.

Along the way Steve has served his fellow professionals on the PDPA board and designed darts and related items for manufacturers and himself alike. His exhibitions are renowned for phenomenal darts, with a genuine enjoyment of meeting and talking to players and fans alike, often until the small hours! He never seems in a hurry to get away and folk respond warmly.

Not many have had a career that entitles them to a section on their website entitled memory lane! Have a look here: http://stevebeaton.co.uk/gallery-2/video/

More to come!

Another trophy for the collection.

Another trophy for the collection.

In case this seems lie a fairwell piece, or lament for forgotten times, it should be noted that Steve appears far from finished yet! Following that superb 2010 season came another couple of solid years where Steve steadily rose in the rankings. A barron spell or two along the way came as a result of life issues such as we all face, yet in 2013 Steve claimed the German darts Championship on the (Euro) PDC ‘s European Tour. Thus adding another level of PDC event to his winning list. Since this point he has again been remarkably solid on the Pro Tour and in PDC TV majors. Only last weekend he reached the last 16 of the European Championships and has already qualified for the Players Championship Finals and The World Championships in January 2016.

Before that however comes a return to Wolverhampton and, after qualifying through the old-fashioned wildcard system, this could again mark a significant moment in Steve’s career. This year, for the first time, The Grand Slam is a seeded event and together with the other majors at this time of the year could see Steve, 32 years on from his TV debut and now aged 51, rising again to within sight of the top echelons of the darting world.

Surely then “The Adonis” will have joined the Oche Gods?

 

 

 

 

 

Two Shots for Double Dekker?

PDC Dart player Jan Dekker, exploits ranking system to perfection as UK players disadvantaged.

Double Dekker. Former BDO World Semi Finalist Jan Dekker

Double Dekker. Former BDO World Semi Finalist Jan Dekker

Jan Dekker is a Dutch dart player of considerable talent. He has reached the later stages of the BDO ( British Darts Organisation) Lakeside World Championship on more than one occasion and has shown a strong big game temperament. He has always appeared an intelligent and well-informed person and player. He resisted the calls to run to the full-time professional circuit, after his early success, and returned to finish his education. Over the last couple of years he has again returned to the fore and this year made the decision to play within the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) system.

The PDC system involves a qualifying school, to gain one of 128 tour cards in order to be assured of playing on the Pro Tour events and then a number of tours, of differing levels, to qualify for various major & TV events over the year. Tour cards last for up yo two years but are given annually to those in the top 64 without the need for Q School attendance. Those who fail to get a tour card are ranked on their performance. They can still play some tours and are reserve players for the main Pro Tour events and as such may be able to play almost the entire Pro Tour whilst still being eligible for the lower tier tours as well.

To enable wider international participation, some events/tours have qualifiers in, or near to, their continental locations as well as a UK qualifying event. Therefore International players can choose either method of qualification.

The basic aim of the system is to provide qualification and ranking systems and well as allow new players to make an attempt to get into the elite Tour Card holding echelons of PDC Professional darts and to earn some of the £7 million plus prize fund available. As can be imagined this is incredibly competitive and, as in any sport, requires not only talent but financial backing / earnings, patience and determination.

Having met Jan on a number of occasions during the past few years I was interested to see how his move to the PDC would pan out and thus have kept an eye out for his result, I watched some of his games and assessed his progress as the 2015 season has progressed. As a dart consultant /coach and fan I was also in a position to compare this to the efforts of other, mainly UK, players who were in a similar position at the seasons beginning. Q School in Wigan January 2015.

As well as noting Jan’s relative success, many thought he would not thrive, it became impossible not to notice several flaws in the professional system, Jan was benefiting from, not available to other players.

This was again highlighted when I also looked out for a player that I had admired, for a number of years, and was well thought of elsewhere. Eddie Dootson is an experienced but little known player from the UK. It became impossible not to see how badly the odds were stacked against him.

Now that the floor / qualification season is over these anomalies can be shown in their true light.

No blame or allegation of the players mentioned or their teams is intended or implied. Both are simply attempting to gain the best start to their PDC career within the rules in place.

Q School

Dekker had a moderately successful Q school, although he did not gain one of the Pro Tour cards available, he finished high enough up the ranking table to ensure he would be able to compete in the vast majority of Pro Tour events should he wish to do so. By entering and playing the event he also became entitled to play the second level PDC tour known as The Challenge Tour. In addition to this he would be eligible to play in the qualifiers events for six The UK Open and nine European Tour events. The later of these he could do either via the UK qualifiers, which were open to all associate members, or the European/Home Nation Qualifier for each event. This becomes the first example of Two Shots for Dekker. For the 2015 season he can aim to get a tour card either by reaching the top 64 overall or by winning the challenge tour. At the same time his financial opportunities increase over new tour card holders who cannot compete in the Challenge Tour.

Eddie Dootson had a similar overall Q School experience, although he finished higher up the ranking table and was thus assured of gaining access to every event.

Eddie Dootson Reaches L16 of UK Open 2015

Eddie Dootson Reaches Last 16 of UK Open 2015

UK Open.

With this security net, of his two shots at every aim, Jan Dekker is able to relax and play in the qualifiers for these events. As these events are not seeded and he is a highly experienced international player, this should provide a happy hunting ground. A very average performance by his own standard means he qualifies but only in the lower group. Here however his talent for big game match play comes storming through. Jan reaches the last 16 of his debut PDC major and adds £5000 to his bank account but more importantly to his overall ranking position.

Eddie starts superbly and reaches a semi final and finished in the top group in qualifying finishing in 22nd place. He then goes on to reach the last 16 of his debut major. Superb performance to add £5000 to his qualification winnings.

The Challenge Tour

Dekker has previous experience of the challenge tour so a quiet start, picking up a few hundred pounds on the first weekend, does not put a dent in the proceedings. By weekend two however Jan is in a much better place, this sees him win one event and reaches Semi and Qtr finals over the weekends four competitions. The consistent playing of events on most weekends and constant opportunities for him to improve and adapt are beginning to pay off. Over the next two Challenge Tour weekends things have changed on the Pro Tour and a confident Dekker wins two more events and picks up money / ranking points in three more. He even misses event twelve completely. In total he has picked up almost £7,500 in cash and by winning the order of merit has earned himself a tour card for 2016/17. No Q School for Mr Dekker next year. Achieving this by September removes a lot of pressure.

Eddie does not shine on the challenge tour. having not previous tour experience and having to play at the highest level in other events, it is not surprising that something gives and the Challenge Tour is not a priority.

Pro Tour

His Q school ranking ensures Jan has played in almost every Pro Tour Floor event this year. As for all newer players it has proved a tough baptism. However his talent has come through in stages and he has regularly won through to claim between £250 & £750, with one last 16 appearance earning him £1500. His total from his 19 appearances at Players Championship & UK Open qualifiers was £4750. Whilst respectable for a first season it hardly sets the world on fire with the last 16 being his best performance. Here again though, double shot, Dekker has benefited from the slanted rules. Josh Payne for example has earned over £8,000 from the same 20 Pro Tour events but is struggling to qualify for the World Championships. Dekker will have no such problems even with an overall Pro Tour finish of 73rd place.

Eddie Dootson has an excellent Pro Tour first year. As suspected he is eligible for all events and in the 20 players champs and 6 UK Open Qualifiers he reaches a Semi Final and steadily accumulates ranking money with L64 and L32 places. His earnings, of £5,250 are again higher than Jan’s.

European Tour

Since 2012 The European Tour has altered the balance of the PDC Rankings

Since 2012 The European Tour has altered the balance of the PDC Rankings

These nine events ( there will be ten in 2016) have transformed the PDC rankings. They are superb opportunities for up and coming players who get to them. They are held on stage and give great experience, as well as being the best rewarded stand alone element of the Pro Tour. Each event accepts the top 16 seeds from the appropriate order of merit and then has qualifying places open to players at the UK , European & Host nation qualifiers. Qualifiers receive £1000 for the first round and thus can easily cover expenses and concentrate on getting through a round or two to swell their ranking coffers. Often with at least one game against an opponent not from the top 16. Despite playing in the, relatively, easier qualifying events Jan has only qualified for two of these events. However they have made all the difference. Both events came at the right time in terms of financial / ranking boosts and without them life may well have been much tougher!

The £2500 gained here has meant that Jan is sitting in second spot for the European qualifying places for the World Championships. Despite being 73rd in the Pro Tour Order of Merit he will line up at Ally Pally in December. With his record, on TV, and experience meaning he is an opponent that very few would wish for.

Eddie had to enter the much more difficult UK qualifiers for all these events but still managed to qualify for 2 events and gain an additional £2,000. Despite these efforts he will not qualify for the World Championships via the Pro Tour and unless he can gain a place at the qualifying event his PDC season is complete.

Overall Rankings & Earnings.

As noted earlier the top 64 in the overall rankings gain automatic tour cards for a minimum of one year. To avoid Q School in 2016 a reasonable guess would have been for a player to gain in the region of £17,000 in ranking prize money over the season including the World Professional Championships. It is safe to say that were Dekker a UK player he would have had a solid first season and be planning Q School and then a decision on whether to keep his ranking money for 2016/17 or start again from zero. Due to the above double opportunities though he has one further card to play. The prize money from the World Championships will put Jan into the top 64. If he starts in Rd 1 it will put him into the top 55 and any wins will see him rocket up the table. Thus again the double elimination loophole is working overtime for Jan here. He has gained entry to European Tours via an event not open to all. The funds generated from this have earned him a place at Ally Pally, that is also not open to all, and the accumulation of funds will mean he is rewarded with a place in the elite top 64.

As well as the top 64 place is it safe to say that Jan’s first season has hardly been one of financial struggle against the odds. By early January 2016 he will have been in the PDC system for 12 months. He will have claimed prize money  £30,000+. This is basically for failing to win a tour card and finishing outside the top 70 on the Pro Tour. He will start 2016 with nothing to defend and with every chance of moving further up the rankings, even with another steady year.

Meanwhile Eddie Dootson, despite having matched or bettered Dekker in every ranking arena, will have earned a little over £12,000. He will decide on whether to return to Q School and, if he achieves a tour card, whether to start again or gamble on a lesser amount in the ranking bank.

Whilst acknowledging that it is important for darts to attract players and financial interest from other nations, surely it is time to remove some of the more glaring unfairness from a system that works against highly talented players who, cannot work the system financially or, are simply born in the nation that drives the darts boom!

Barry Hearn

Put simply, it is time for Barry Hearn & Matt Porter at the PDC and Peter Manley & Alan Warriner-Little at the PDPA to stop tweaking the rules, and ranking system, and overhaul it to take account of the changes that their superb success, in creating the modern game, has created. It is clearly time for as level a playing field as possible.