Author: Jonathan Turner
The PDC World Series of Darts has come a long way since its inaugural year in 2013. Back then, just two events existed as the PDC dipped their toes in the water of taking darts and its biggest stars into new territories.
Indeed, these tournaments - with the first held in Dubai in May and the second in Sydney in August - were used as testers to gauge what sort of interest outside of the typical strongholds there was for professional darts tournaments.
Both events proved rousing successes as Michael van Gerwen won the inaugural Dubai title in sweltering conditions, before the Dutchman finished runner-up to Phil Taylor in Sydney.
Fast forward to 2015 when the World Series of Darts evolved into a true series, introducing World Series ranking points for the first time, visiting five countries and hosting a Finals tournament in Glasgow. The World Series of Darts had begun to establish its place in an increasingly busy PDC schedule.
Now entering its fifth full edition since the Finals-concluding remodel, what can we expect from this year’s World Series? How effectively has the series taken the sport globally?
The 2019 series will begin in Las Vegas at the start of July before heading to Cologne in Germany later that same month. It will then head to Australia in August - first to Brisbane then Melbourne - before the final regular series event in Hamilton, New Zealand at the end of the month. The Finals will then be held on the first three days of November in Amsterdam, replacing Vienna as hosts.
Ranking points and prize money are again earned based on the players’ performances in each tournament, with the top-eight ranked players qualifying for the Finals. Each 16-player tournament will also continue the same format of eight PDC-ranked players and eight regional qualifiers.
England’s James Wade is the defending World Series champion after he beat compatriot Michael Smith in a nail-biting final in the Austrian capital last year.
The prize money has increased slightly, with each individual tournament again offering £20,000 to the winner, although the Finals champion’s cheque has increased from £50,000 to £70,000.
What is most striking about the 2019 edition is its lack of presence in Asia. Dubai had been a constant until 2017, while Tokyo dropped out after two years in 2016 and Shanghai has been excluded this year after hosting three successive events from 2016.
PDC chief Barry Hearn revealed ambitions in January, saying: “I have a clear, concise plan of where this sport is going and that is globally. We will see China develop a major darts involvement and there's a lot of people in China.”
Yet no World Series event, or PDC event of any kind, will be held in China or Far East Asia this year, limiting the tournament to Europe, Oceania and the United States. It is also interesting how this year’s iteration will be the smallest tour since 2015, which also comprised five cities, although then it was more far-flung.
Ensuring a leg in the United States - particularly Las Vegas - is imperative for the PDC, who hope to establish darts as Britain’s next popular sports export, following the success of football/soccer and more recently rugby union, particularly sevens, Stateside.
Additionally, PDC Chief Executive Matt Porter said last year that the Series would return to the Middle East in 2019. Those plans have seemingly fallen through.
Is this a sign that Hearn and the PDC are scaling back the World Series of Darts, or are grander plans in the works for China - a standalone championship perhaps? After all, the PDC have opened an office in country.
This, of course, is just speculative at this stage, but it is nevertheless a worrying sign when a tournament like the World Series shrinks instead of expands; visits less countries, not more; limits itself to four nations when in 2017 it visited six.
It would seem strange to remove, or not include, cities that make financial sense to the PDC, so have the attempts to take darts global not quite worked out as hoped so far? Or was there just an unfortunate scheduling conflict that meant this year’s series could not visit Asia?
Maybe we need to hold our horses, since it’s too early to suggest as such. Nonetheless, if in 2020, the World Series of Darts once again excludes an Asian leg and limits itself from being truly global, then these are the conclusions most followers of the sport will likely make. Only time will tell.
|2018||James Wade||11||-||10||Michael Smith|
|2017||Michael van Gerwen||11||-||6||Gary Anderson|
|2016||Michael van Gerwen||11||-||9||Peter Wright|
|2015||Michael van Gerwen||11||-||10||Peter Wright|