PDC Chief Executive Matt Porter has defended the choice to replace Gary Anderson with nine Premier League ‘contenders’.
One player will deputise for the Flying Scotsman on each of the nine Premier League nights leading up to Judgement Night. That begins with Chris Dobey’s match against Mensur Suljovic in Newcastle. The move has attracted a lot of criticism on social media. Darts followers and fans have questioned the execution of the idea, as well as snubs for the likes of Simon Whitlock and Dave Chisnall. PDC supremo Porter, speaking to the Darts Show podcast, expressed his faith in the ‘contenders’ plan.
“We had an extensive debate amongst our board and ultimately we came down on the side of this innovative solution which I think will be really exciting,” Porter said.
“If it’s a risk, it’s a risk that will last two months and for the benefit of each player, will last one night. What would have been a risk is throwing a young lad into this for nine weeks, someone who’s got potential; someone who is a prospect, someone who will go on and have a great career.
“It can be a pretty horrible place week in week out, 10,000 people, you’re getting turned over each week, lots of travelling, time away. We have to nurture the stars of tomorrow, not risk their potential.”
Previously, invitational tournaments had almost exclusively been for the top players. In recent years the PDC have reached out to younger players, offering the likes of Dimitri van den Bergh and Jamie Lewis a shot at the World Series. This move, Porter says, is an extension of that policy.
“Everybody can have a run. We’ve seen pretty much all of these kids have a run in a major event, but they haven’t done it consistently week in week out, year in year out. That’s because they’ve not been around that long.
“So what we’re doing now is saying – here is another chance for you to go up there, play a top player, big crowd, in many cases a local crowd which will bring with it a lot of support but also a lot of expectation, so it’s a good barometer for their progression.”
The first Premier League in 2005 toured the likes of Widnes, Colchester and Kidderminster. Now the 2019 edition will break ground in Berlin, also selling out venues at the likes of Rotterdam, Dublin and Glasgow. Porter pointed out that the times have changed massively.
“A lot of our players who have been around a long time – they’re used to leisure centres and small halls. They come here and Premier League footballers want to meet them,” he said.
“They’re going to share the same sort of surroundings as top international sportspeople and I think it does make them feel special.”
Author: Ed McCosh