Many young aspiring players think of becoming professional dart players. But most that try do not make the cut or indeed think through the cost and sacrifice involved. Although these thousands try to gain a PDC tour card, hoping they will be the next Michael van Gerwen or former sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor.
It is easy to see why more dart players want to be part of the darts elite, with nearly £15m on the PDC annual dart circuit shared amongst 128 players who wouldn't want a share?
Even ex-professional football, rugby, and cricket players have turned to throw the tungsten arrows, and the most famous of them all is the current PDC World Champions Gerwyn Price. So why has darts become such a global sport, and why is it the fastest growing sport in the World?
Like all sports, nothing of this could be achieved without the support of TV coverage and sponsorship. The PDC has made the sport accessible to all if they are good enough, and the world-wide reach is growing year-on-year. The USA, Asia are amongst some of the biggest nations famous for its sport seeing a rise in darts participation. USA states such as Delaware, New York, and Chicago all have local teams, but no player from the USA has won a World title in a steel tip darts event despite the countries size. Bettors can enjoy playing various types of games on Delaware and place bets on their favourite sports.
Players wishing to players on the PDC professional dart circuit require to hold a valid tour card. A total of 128 players at any one time have cards. January each year, the PDC hold a qualifying school (Q-School) that anyone can enter despite their ability to try and win a vacant tour card or PDC place.
A tour card lasts for two years, and if by then you are ranked by the PDC Order of merit within the top 64 players, you retain your card. If after this term you are ranked outside the top 64, you lose your card and have to compete again at Q-school to gain another.
The cost to enter Q-School has gone up over the years, so expect to pay £450-500 to enter the event. Full details can be found on the PDC / PPDPA websites.
Q-School is set in two locations, the UK and Europe. The event lasts several days, and usually, if no restricting is in place, such as the COVID pandemic, tour cards are awarded to winners of each day's play. If a player doesn't win a card on the first day, they may on the second, third etc. However, players can also be rewarded with a tour card on how well they perform over several days of play. The more matches a player wins, the more they are rewarded with Q-School points, and the remaining tour cards are given to the top players.
The number of tour cards availably can vary slightly depending on the existing players ranking. However, the allocation is divided between the UK and European events depending on players competing.
To win a tour card, as any player will tell you, is not easy. So, you might be the best player in your local, hit regular 180s and believe you are as good as the players on TV. However, thousands think the same and are willing to pay their money to prove they can make the grade.
The potential rewards for a professional player are high. However, you need to factor in costs to compete in this sport.
Most starry-eyed potentials seem to forget that being a professional at any sport takes commitment and money. Travel costs, hotel accommodation, meals all add up, and travel may not just be a car trip, but many events may not be played in your own country. It is not uncommon for some players to relocate to pursue their dreams, which may be cheaper than flying to the events, so have you thought this through? Several years ago, Simon Whitlock estimated it cost him £25,000 per year to compete.
Players are allowed to display sponsors logos on their dart shirts. Sponsorship of this type helps pay the costs, but sponsors may not be flooding to your door unless you are at the top. Global sponsors may be hard to come by if you are new on the dart circuit, so look local. Some small firms like to support people within their local community.
Professional managers can help. You may be a great dart player that doesn't necessarily mean you are a business manager. A good manager can take care of obtaining sponsorship, and they can make arrangements for you to attend matches and do exhibitions. They will want a cut of winnings, but any good manager is likely to earn you more than if you don't have one.
I am asked if I sponsor players; sorry, no, I don't. I write serval dart related websites and a few professional players websites, however, regarding professional players, but that is about it.
For the many hopefuls that enter Q-School, only a few win tour cards each year. The others there are other ways through the PDC development tour program. If the PDC isn't for you, then you can compete in open dart tournaments around the World. Most have a World Darts Federation (WDF) ranking separate from the PDC, a bit like two different boxing title run by different organisations. WDF are probably the best way to start and test your skill against some of the best players in the World. The PDC is open to both men and women. The WDF tend to have separate men and ladies events. Details of these events and how to enter can be found on the WDF website.
If you play on the WDF circuit of events regularly and win some matches, you may be rewarded WDF ranking points. The players with the most ranking points are invited to play in the bigger tournaments or automatically become seeds and don't have to qualify to play in the events.
Your local county many have a youth league or look at some junior dart player development organisations such as the Junior Darts Corporation (JDC). The JDC can help young players improve their skill and help in taking the next step into future stardom.