As Fallon Sherrock and Lisa Ashton continue to spearhead the female challenge in the PDC, there is growing interest around the women’s game.
The question now is: what is the next step?
“We feel that darts has a unique position where men and women can compete on an equal footing at an elite level,” PDC Chief Executive Matt Porter said to The Darts Show podcast.
“However, beneath [the top level] there is a need to stimulate activity and competitive action. There was a massive drop-off in the number of women playing in the World Championship qualifier this year compared to the first year they did it. We need to find out how we can get these women more confident that they can win, more comfortable to the playing environment. More committed to playing competitive darts on a more regular basis.
“It’s a long-term project. That’s not going to happen overnight. It’s possibly one for the next generation of players, rather than the current generation of players, because it could take a long time to take off. But what Fallon and Lisa are doing is sensational, and it is showing that women can play darts against men, and be competitive and win. And ultimately, that’s something that we feel is a big driving force, and a big selling point for darts.”
However, there are no immediate plans of introducing a women’s tour.
“It’s not something that we’re considering introducing at the moment, but it is something certainly we have discussed, in a wider conversation about what should we do with women’s darts and getting more women into PDC darts,” he said.
Sherrock’s run to the third round of the World Championship saw her earn spots in all of 2020’s World Series events.
Porter stressed that she is up there as one of the biggest stories in darts right now, and fully justifies her inclusion.
“The reason we’re doing the World Series is to develop the sport globally,” he explained.
“In the local markets, you need to take players who will appeal to the local population. I spent four days in Australia in January, I’ve been to New York, I’ve had conference calls regularly with people in New Zealand. They’re all asking about Fallon Sherrock.
“So when people say ‘she doesn’t deserve to go’, it’s absolute madness. They have so little understanding of the product, it’s disappointing because it’s obvious why the names that are picked are the names that are picked.
“It really shouldn’t be a complication for everybody.”
Across the board, the standards of the sport’s elite appears to be soaring.
The opening six Players Championship events have produced six different winners, with records tumbling last weekend in Wigan.
“Pretty much every tournament we go into now, everyone who is in it now fancies their chances of winning it,” smiled Porter. “Some of the names we’ve seen on the winning roster have shown pretty much anyone can win it. I think it’s great.
“The strength and depth is there, and the will to win, the determination. It doesn’t really matter if some of the “top players” miss the odd event, because that’s music to the ears of some of the guys who fancy their chances of taking their places. There’s no room for complacency, there’s no room for anybody to take their foot off the pedal, and it’s only going to drive things forward.”
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Premier League format
2020 saw the ‘Contenders’ format retained, although the title of the nine players in question has been switched to ‘Challengers’. Porter views it as a roaring success.
“The key thing we saw from the Contenders, as it was called last year, was the local impact it had, players playing in their home cities or home countries, and I think that really added to the atmosphere on the evening,” he said.
“It really added to the story-telling in the media and on social media.
“It gave fans plenty of conversations. Should he be there? Shouldn’t he be there?
“Ultimately, they’re all world class players. Some might be higher in the rankings than the others, but they can all, over this format, play to a good enough standard. So we felt that it was worthwhile doing it again.
“No one has won yet, which is great because it means somebody at some point will be the first one to win it.
“The guys who are in the Premier League week in, week out are the best players in the world. No questions about that. All nine of them are nine of the very best players in the world.
“There’s no question that they’re the absolute elite. And they’re what everyone else is aspiring to be.”
So will we be seeing it again, going forward?
“I don’t know. We look at the format every year,” answered Porter. “We didn’t really know if it had a second year in it. It took a lot of deliberation that, because we thought, was it a novelty?
“Novelties don’t last forever, so we will evaluate it.”
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