Barry Hearn stopped off at The Darts Show podcast to discuss some talking points in PDC darts.
The PDC chairman covered a number of topics with the Sky Sports-backed show. First up was the Grand Slam, where Gerwyn Price claimed his second successive Wolverhampton title. After waxing lyrical about the Welshman, Hearn praised the tournament at large.
“I think Gerwyn Price has stamped his authority as one of the world’s leading players,” he said.
“He’s been threatening. I think he’s got a very professional approach. Goodness me, he even got some cheers the other night!
“The TV ratings were up on just about every session. So it ticked all my boxes, the Grand Slam. Great crowd, great show, great ratings, great winner.”
Grand Slam shake-up
Throughout the Slam, there were questions about the qualification system. The inclusion of the likes of Martin Schindler and Ryan Harrington, at the expense of such players as Mensur Suljovic and Krzysztof Ratajski, raised some eyebrows. Doubts remain about the BDO element of the tournament as well, something Hearn honed in on.
“It won’t surprise you to know that it’s on our next board meeting [agenda] to review Grand Slam selection process going forward,” revealed the 71-year-old.
“We don’t want to close the door on any darts player. But the opportunities in darts go even beyond the Grand Slam. If a player has ability, they can choose Q-School. If they miss out on Q-School, they’ve got the Challenge Tour. Or if they’re young, they have the Development Tour. The structure of the PDC is all about embracing anyone.
“The problems that the BDO have are being well-monitored. Inevitably, they’re having a tough time. And I think there still is a way forward for them. They’ve got to alter their attitude, and make it clear that they’re focusing on amateur darts.”
Opportunities for women
The enigmatic Londoner was impressed by Lisa Ashton and Mikuru Suzuki’s Grand Slam performances. He has repeatedly banged the drum of women entering the PDC realm through Q-School rather than creating a tour. He repeated that view while discussing the future of female darts.
“The great thing about darts is that it’s gender-neutral. It’s a level playing field. I’m really pleased to see the progress in the women’s game.
“The answer for me has never been to say ‘women’s darts is mediocre, let’s have a women’s tour’. Because mediocrity, in today’s world, doesn’t sell. Sometimes you get a bit of coverage because they feel guilty. That’s not what you want.
“Women have got to be at Q-School, at the Challenge Tour. They’ve got to pay the same price the men pay, and have the same ability. If not, tough! If they have, the door’s open to you to change your life,” Hearn pointed out.
Senior tour in the offing?
With Darts Show regular Colin Lloyd listening in keenly, Hearn was asked about the possibility of a PDC senior tour. Raymond van Barneveld’s impending retirement means he and Phil Taylor would both potentially be available for a senior circuit. The idea is intriguing to the PDC supremo, but it’s not likely to materialise too soon.
“Do you know, with the seniors tour – I’ve seen it in the golf, it’s very successful. I think there’s some value. I’m not sure yet. But if you’ve got Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld, you’ve got strong players. I have to look at it with my commercial head,” he said.
“The jury’s out, but not completely out. It’s something I’m looking at in the same way as trying to create more opportunities for women.
“I wouldn’t rule it out. At the moment, we’re flat-out making the game bigger and better, and we have to prioritise.”
Watch this space
Hearn teased at some upcoming announcements, including a possible return of the Premier League contenders, and a World Series expansion designed to “spread the gospel” of the game. The PDC chief suggested that darts viewership is about to undergo a massive change.
“So far, we’re super successful. But we can’t get complacent, we have to keep pushing boundaries.
“And I will tell you that within the next few months, every single darts event in the world will be available in every single country in the world,” Hearn revealed.Tags: Barry Hearn, Interview, PDC
Author: Ed McCosh