One of the biggest, most lucrative, and most divisive tournaments in darts kicks off tomorrow. The Premier League is a powerhouse of an event, encompassing a third of the year and playing to the biggest crowds that darts gets (plus Exeter). Its role in the sport is enormous; its popularity remains unwavering; and yet it seems to cause some of the biggest arguments in the darts community.
Every year the same arguments arise: firstly, the line-up, then the format, then the fact it is a non-ranking event and therefore irrelevant in some people’s eyes. Regularly, a player (or their management) end up making their frustrations public after being overlooked, and that leads to more arguments amongst fans about whether they were right or wrong.
The players want to be in it; of that there is no doubt. Even losing every single game will still net them tens of thousands of pounds, plus they can make extra from their sponsors. Winning the title (as well as some weekly nights) will earn a player more money than any tournament outside of the World Championship. I am sure Jonny Clayton or Glen Durrant would have loved their prize money on their ranking, but when someone just handed you a cheque for £275,000 it turns out it is not that big a concern.
The reason all this money is available is because it makes money - 17 nights of live televised sport in front of huge crowds of paying punters. It is the Premier League that pays for the consistent increases in prize money we have seen in the PDC over recent years. Fans turn out en masse for “a night at the darts” and they want to see the biggest names. Would you rather see more variety in the field? - you can do so on the Pro Tour… which is sustained by the Premier League. Just because some hardcore darts fans are not that keen, it does not mean it is not vital to the sport.
That said, I have already made my feelings on the format clear - I think the game has changed in recent years. The strength of the sport is no longer at the very top, it is in the depth. I do think there is room for more variety, and reducing the workload on top players would go some way to reducing them skipping other events in a crowded calendar. You could pick eight players for each night from a group of 12 - so they play two weeks out of every three. If Michael Van Gerwen is not there for the night you bought your ticket, does it matter?... we’ve got Luke Humphries, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright on the bill.
How about a group of 16 players, where they each play half the weekly nights in the hopes of qualifying for the Finals Night at The O2? The league format remains easy to understand, it lightens the load for the busy top players, and yet there would still be a succession of blockbuster ties each week.
See?... I’m arguing with myself now. I told you this thing was divisive.
WANT TO READ THE NEXT ISSUE FIRST?
Sign up to the Target Darts newsletter where we will send you the next issue directly to your inbox and also keep you updated on the latest news, products, and offers.
Issue #004 Quiz Answers
1) Glen Durrant and Nathan Aspinall
3) Raymond van Barneveld
Want to test your darts knowledge? Sign up to the Target Darts newsletter for the next quiz.