PDC Director and two time World Matchplay champion, Rod Harrington has spoke about how the Players Championship events which form part of the Summer Series were born.

Starting tomorrow there will be five successive Players Championship events and for Harrington, he was a key person involved in the creation of the PDC ProTour with it now being streamed and in environments such as Robin Park Tennis Centre.

This was compared to the old days of leisure centres and he ran through how it all happened ahead of this week’s action.

“We had to get the professional game out of the pubs and holiday camps,” said Harrington.

“Even as recently as the mid-2000s, UK Open Qualifiers used to be played in pubs, until we had a think tank meeting in Portugal around the time Matt Porter had started to work in the PDC.

“We all agreed that in order for the game to progress, the playing conditions had to become more professional, which meant taking the game out of pubs.

“Barry Hearn backed the proposals financially and the ProTour system has continued to develop ever since.

“I have to pay huge credit to the late [former Tournament Director] Tommy Cox, and to current PDC Head of Production Mark Leak and his team who built the playing cubicles to the exact specification we had in mind.

“When players come to play in the PDC now they always remark at how professional the playing set-up is, and it’s been a real team effort to achieve those standards. In terms of finances, we’ve seen prize money increase from £12,000 in 2002 to £75,000 per event in 2020, including £10,000 for the winner.

“Overall, I think they’ve proved to be one of the best things to happen in the game’s development.”

Q-School development – “In no other sport would you find amateur players competing against the elite”

Players must win their Tour Cards at PDC Qualifying School with Gerwyn Price among the players to come through and he also spoke about that system.

“In no other sport would you find amateur players competing against the elite,” Harrington continued.

“I couldn’t turn up on the PGA Tour and tee off with Tiger Woods, I couldn’t turn up at Man United and say ‘I fancy a game today’, but that’s what was happening in darts.

“To improve the game professionally we had to turn it around so we introduced the Qualifying School system, mirroring golf. We spoke to the heads of many sporting bodies to try and take a bit from each, but golf was the main sport we wanted to try to emulate.

“From there, we’ve brought in the Challenge and Development Tours so that there is now a proper system in place for all players to progress through. There’s still so much that can be done, and I’m sure the PDC will continue to evolve the ProTour over the coming years and decades.”

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Author: Samuel Gill