Comment & Analysis @paulprenders
Watch the World Matchplay on Sky Sports; coverage gets underway on Saturday, July 18
Last Updated: 01/07/20 5:57pm
Darts behind closed doors, players marking matches, and the hope of bringing crowds back to watch the biggest names in the PDC – with competitive darts poised to return, we take a look at the state of play.
After an epic six weeks of darting from home with the innovative PDC Home Tour, and a host of online tournaments, a five-day Summer Series will be followed by the World Matchplay – the year’s second-biggest tournament – and, as things stand the Premier League, all by the end of July.
Questions still surround the Matchplay, with a decision on where and how the event might look expected by the end of the week.
The PDC are considering two options: a behind-closed-doors tournament at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena – which remains the most likely – but also a scenario that would see the event in its regular home, Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
PDC Calendar – July schedule
|July 8||Summer Series 1|
|July 9||Summer Series 2|
|July 10||Summer Series 3|
|July 11||Summer Series 4|
|July 12||Summer Series 5|
|July 18-26||World Matchplay|
|July 30||Premier League Night Seven (Birmingham)|
In preparation for that event, and following the suspension of all Pro Tour and European Tour action after Premier League Night Six in Liverpool in March, the Summer Series will kick off the sport’s return to action for what looks set to be a busy second half of the year.
With the sport halted, so has the Order of Merit – meaning qualification for the premier ranking events has been impossible. To reignite the competitive edge, and give as many of the Tour Card holders as possible the chance to return to play, the PDC announced the Summer Series in June.
With the announcement that prize money – which would have lapsed between March 16 and July 8 – has been removed, the field for the Matchplay will be confirmed at the conclusion of the Summer Series.
The five days of competition will take place behind closed doors and will involve losing players calling the next match on their allocated board. The two ‘live’ streaming boards will have a referee for their match.
Each day will have standard Players Championship prize money of £75,000, and all prize money counts towards the re-calibrated Order of Merit
Additionally, a place at November’s Grand Slam of Darts is up for grabs for the player who tops the five-day Order of Merit for prize money accumulated and has not already qualified for the tournament later this year.
Five days of Players Championship events will get underway in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, July 8 through to Sunday, July 12, and the five days will represent the final qualification events for the World Matchplay.
Blackpool’s iconic Winter Gardens and the sunshine of summer is synonymous with the sport’s second-biggest event, and the news that the tournament will go ahead on the scheduled dates was welcomed.
The draw will take place on July 12, and the quest for the Phil Taylor Trophy will then begin on July 18 and run through to a conclusion on July 26. Sky Sports will be there for every arrow thrown.
However, for the first time in its history, the prestigious event will not be held in Blackpool, but will go behind closed doors at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena.
Matchroom Sport have already seen successful hosting of the Championship League and the Tour Championship in snooker, and with an adjoining hotel, the Marshall Arena is set up to provide the most suitable alternative to the Winter Gardens.
The top-16 players from the Order of Merit will qualify automatically, and they will be joined by the top-16 players from a one-year Pro Tour Order of Merit.
As it stands, Birmingham on Thursday, July 30, will see the resumption of the Premier League, halted in Liverpool after Night Six.
The 17-night roadshow is perhaps the most difficult tournament to get up and running, with nights still scheduled for Northern Ireland, Holland, Germany, Scotland, and England.
With guidance differing from country to country, it remains to be seen whether it is possible to stick to the rescheduled plan that was released in June. That includes a double-header in Rotterdam, Judgement Night now at The O2, a trip to the Mercedes Benz Arena in Berlin, and the Play-Offs scheduled for Sheffield in October.
Premier League Darts 2020 – Revised schedule
|Thursday July 30||Night Seven||Arena Birmingham|
|Thursday August 13||Night Eight||SSE Arena, Belfast|
|Thursday August 13||Night Nine (Judgement Night)||The O2, London|
|Thursday August 20||Night 10||First Direct Arena, Leeds|
|Thursday August 27||Night 11||Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin|
|Thursday September 3||Night 12||Rotterdam Ahoy|
|Thursday September 9||Night 13||Rotterdam Ahoy|
|Thursday September 10||Night 14||SSE Hydro, Glasgow|
|Thursday September 17||Night 15||Manchester Arena|
|Thursday September 24||Night 16||Utilita Arena, Newcastle|
|Thursday October 1||Play Offs||Fly DSA Arena, Sheffield|
Behind the cancelled World Series, the burgeoning European Tour has perhaps been the hardest hit, with the calendar now reduced to just four additional events from an initial 13. Gerwyn Price was the Belgian Darts Champion, beating Michael Smith in February.
Four remaining events will now take place in Gibraltar, Germany, Czech Republic, and for the first time in PDC history, Hungary.
The 32-player European Championship remains in place, with the qualifying criteria an Order of Merit based on five events rather than 13. The event is due to take place in Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, from October 29 to November 1.
PDC European Tour
|Hungarian Darts Trophy||September 4-6|
|German Darts Open||September 11-13|
|Gibraltar Darts Trophy||September 25-27|
|Czech Darts Open||October 16-18|
|European Championship||October 29 – November 1|
Rest of the Year
The caveat remains that all action is subject to change, as guidance to deal with the threat of Covid-19 changes, but the rest of the darting year is yet to be altered.
PDC chief executive Matt Porter told The Darts Show podcast that Players Championship events could be shoehorned into midweeks with players reliant on them for income, and once the Matchplay and Summer Series have played out, further announcements are likely.
The field for the Nordic Darts Masters, the sole remaining event of the World Series, will be made up of eight PDC players and eight local players, while the World Cup will now take place over three days in Graz in November rather than four in Hamburg.
PDC Calender: August-December
|September 18-20||World Series of Darts Finals|
|October 4-10||World Grand Prix|
|October 23-24||Nordic Darts Masters|
|November 14-22||World Cup of Darts|
|November 14-22||Grand Slam of Darts|
|November 27-29||Players Championship Finals|
An announcement on the field for the World Series Finals is expected in the coming weeks while the World Grand Prix, the Grand Slam of Darts, and Players Championship Finals remain as scheduled and with qualifying criteria likely to mirror that of the Matchplay.
Finally, the World Championship, scheduled for December at Alexandra Palace, remains untouched – the hope being that by then, crowds may be allowed for sporting events and fans will be allowed to gather at the year’s biggest Christmas party.
Darts returns to Sky Sports in July, with nine days of coverage from the World Matchplay getting underway on Saturday, July 18, and every day until the final on Sunday, July 26.