As well as being a classic Christmas movie, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ carries an important message.

If you haven’t caught any of the 500,000 seasonal showings since the advent of television, here’s a summary. George Bailey, down on his luck and facing financial ruin, wonders what life would’ve been like if he hadn’t been born. He learns that actually he’s an integral part of the town, and upon his return to reality his life turns around.

The moral is that even though you feel irrelevant in this big, bad world, you do matter.

Let’s apply the Wonderful Life theory to the Masters, shall we? The season-opening tournament passed by in a fairly dull blur at the weekend. In case you missed that too (seriously, do you live on the moon?), Michael van Gerwen won – again. This time it was former winner James Wade who failed to stop the Dutchman’s annual romp.

If the Masters disappeared off the PDC calendar, its impact wouldn’t be felt outside the vicinity of van Gerwen’s pocket. The world’s top 16 coming together for a jamboree of tungsten magic is fantastic in principle, but it doesn’t normally pan out that way. This year, there were more averages below 90 than above it, with only three players managing a three-figure score across the tournament.

That’s not really the players’ fault, either.  In the brief period between one season ending and the other starting, players – the sensible ones, anyway – will go back to their families and forget about the tungsten for a spell. It means that the Masters is essentially a collection of rusty stars trying to get their eye in.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Bigger attractions

The Masters also can’t be billed as a one-off chance to see the top players all in one place when the Premier League kicks off a mere six days later, and lasts until March. If you miss that, there’s always the Champions League later in the year. Not to mention the fact that you can see the top 16 at any stage tournament. It’s hard to put your finger exactly on what makes the Masters unique.

What was most telling was the players’ quotes before and after the event. Van Gerwen claimed that he loves the tournament; of course he does. Anything where you turn up for a weekend and win £60,000 annually would surely take a special place in your heart, too.

Wade said after his defeat: “There’s still a lot more to come from me. I’ve got to the final and that shows what I’ve got to come.”

The Machine fully acknowledged that the Masters is little but a launchpad for the 2019 season. It is no elite event, and definitely not a major. You could replace it with a massive game of Round the Clock or Killer, and Wade might have said exactly the same thing.

It appears that the Champions League will start to eclipse the Masters where it counts – revenue. The enthusiasm with which Paddy Power has taken up sponsorship and publicity for the event makes the Masters’ limited appeal pale in comparison.

BetVictor and the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes aren’t exactly commercial giants, after all.

And the Masters was talked about only while it was on; amid the social media maelstrom of the PDC’s ‘contenders’ idea for the Premier League, it quickly slipped out of the public eye.

Read here: The PDC’s idea for a Gary Anderson replacement is better than its execution

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

The Dutch Creator

Vincent van der Voort took aim at invitational tournaments not long ago. Part of that was bemoaning events that preclude the inclusion of Vincent van der Voort. Yet beneath the slightly bitter veneer of comments, the big Dutchman made a salient point.

Why is it that there are so many non-ranking events cluttering up the PDC calendar? The top players are having more chances to pick up easy money, with the rest having to watch them dine at the top table. Whereas the UK Open has the magic of amateurs and all Tour Card holders entering an open tournament, these events are elitist to its core. The Masters has been held seven times. Only 33 players have taken part.

Van der Voort called for a new tournament, one which would be ranked and open to more players. A new format would mean the tournament was fresh, interesting and – most importantly – more inclusive. The BDO Dutch Open ran concurrently to the Masters in the first weekend in February. Its mix of open doubles and singles tournaments is vastly more engrossing than the Masters can hope to be. And the thought of the sort of partnerships that could be formed in a PDC doubles event makes the mouth water.

There are all sorts of possibilities out there. Most don’t require the world’s top 16 to drag themselves to an event that is unlikely to capture the imagination.

George Bailey glimpsed a world that he didn’t feature in; it wasn’t a better place. If the Masters were to disappear, the darting world world barely register a shrug.

If the PDC wants to chop and change its calendar for 2020, the Masters has to be the first thing to be cut.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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Author: Ed McCosh