PREVIEW: Live darts is back in our homes with the PDC Home Tour
As the sporting world grinds to a halt, Barry Hearn and co have announced an ingenious way to keep the sport going during the current lockdown.
Today will see the launch of the first ever ‘PDC Home Tour’ following a successful trial period through the Darts At Home series. Nine players competed, across two nights of action, in a mini league which was screened through YouTube and Facebook.
One of the stars to compete in the new format was world number 17 Stephen Bunting. He gave DartsNews his thoughts on the new format ‘I loved it. I think it’s great we can still play darts at home and people will still tune in. It gives the fans something to watch and keeps us playing, which helps when we get back to the tour.’
The lock-down is taking its toll on all of us and darts players aren’t exempt, as Bunting admitted. ‘It’s very tough, I’m lucky to have a caring family around me. Filling my time with PlayStation and general housework.’
It’ll be very different. There won’t be a big stage, nor will there be a big crowd and while the usual razzmatazz will be absent it doesn’t mean we’ll be low on quality. One of the standout games of the trial was a Barney versus Taylor rematch, the Dutchman edged the contest while agonizingly missing double 12 for a perfect nine dart finish. Darts’ individuality lends itself to home playing, it works well for the fans and works well for the players.
Any darts player will tell you that preparation is key. Bunting will prepare for this like any other event. I’ll still be putting several hours in on the board to be ready. It’s another great opportunity by the PDC to show how good we can be.’
We always associate a live PDC tournament with a boisterous crowd but instead the players will be at home. No noise, except their own, something none of us will be used to, especially the players. ‘It does take adjusting’ said Bunting ‘Getting used to a player’s pace but not having them in front of you is difficult. Waiting for the relay of the scores, it’s more relaxed. Saying that when I played, I wanted to win which made me more nervous!’
Notable absentees being World Number One Michael van Gerwen, who is unable to meet the requirements for the tournament and former world champion Gary Anderson, who claims his WiFi isn’t up to acceptable standard, as bizarre as it seems, you can imagine Russ Bray and his gravelly voice outside the Anderson household ‘Gary you require…A better WiFi connection!’
Four players will play each night. The format will see competitors play each other once in matches played over the best of nine legs, with a winner crowned each night. At the conclusion of the initial 32 nights of league action, the group winners will advance through into phase two of the competition.
It’s a sporting fix for the fans and keeps the players playing competitively but Bunting doesn’t see the format bring a long term fix. A big part of our sport is the fans but it’s a good tournament and one we could possibly fit it into the calendar every year. My family don’t go to many tour events, so it’s nice for them to be able to see me competing on live streams.’
One of the big differences from this, to a regular tournament, was players keeping their own score, you take your throw and with some quick maths the players themselves shout out their score. The Bullet doesn’t believe players use this for their own gain. ‘They are all professionals and if they cheat they’d only be cheating themselves', he said.
Live sport is a premium, especially during these tough times, luckily the PDC have given us a lifeline, for the next couple of months. At least – as long as we aren’t all on the same provider as Gary Anderson, that is.
Schedule PDC Home Tour
Friday April 17 (19:30 - 22:30 GMT)
19:30 Peter Wright v Peter Jacques
19:55 Jamie Lewis v Niels Zonneveld
20:20 Peter Jacques v Niels Zonneveld
20:45 Peter Wright v Jamie Lewis
21:10 Jamie Lewis v Peter Jacques
21:35 Niels Zonneveld v Peter Wright