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The Darts Show podcast: Matt Porter on Premier League, World Championships and more – Sky Sports

Paul Prenderville

Comment & Analysis @paulprenders

“It’s the event that people who don’t follow darts through the year know about, and it’s the World Championship – it deserves a crowd. If it can’t get one in London, but it can get one somewhere else, we’ll consider it but at the moment it’s a long shot,” PDC Chief Executive Matt Porter.

Last Updated: 30/09/20 9:55am

The Premier League Play-Offs will move away from The O2 for the first time since 2011, after PDC chief executive Matt Porter confirmed they will be played “in and around one of our remaining events”.

For the last eight years London’s Docklands has played host to the Premier League finale, but in a year unlike any other it’s the latest change to a schedule that’s likely to be confirmed over the coming days.

Glen Durrant, Peter Wright, Nathan Aspinall and Gary Anderson will contest the culmination to the Premier League season after sealing top four places across 10 nights of action in Milton Keynes in August and September.

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Darts in the UK has been played behind closed doors since the fifth night of Premier League action in March in Liverpool – a short time before sport went into shutdown and the country went into lockdown. Despite hopes the Play-Offs could take place in front of a crowd at the prestigious O2 on October 22, Porter has confirmed that it is not to be.

“We’re going to schedule the Premier League final in and around one of our remaining events, purely for logistical reasons,” he told the latest episode of The Darts Show podcast.

“Ironically, one of the by-products of Michael van Gerwen not qualifying, is that everyone who’s qualified for the final stages is now domestic.

“That makes things a bit easier in terms of scheduling, because nobody has to get on an aeroplane to get to it.”

The World Grand Prix is scheduled for seven days of action at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena between October 6 and October 12, while the Grand Slam of Darts is expected to be switched from Wolverhampton and is currently scheduled for November 14-22.

The Players Championship will be played behind closed doors, and it will not be at the Butlins resort in Minehead – it all means the ‘bubble’ environment is likely to continue for some time in the UK as the sport continues to service its players and Porter expects to be able to confirm the state of play imminently.

“I would hope, by the end of this week, with the exception of the World Championships, we will have the rest of our year planned and announced.

“We now know we can get crowds in Austria and Germany, we can’t get crowds in the UK – we know it, so it means we can plan for it.

“We’ve had a fantastic bubble at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. That venue is now being used night and day by snooker.

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“We’re going to do the same thing at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, because the two venues were modelled on each other, and they are an environment where we can safely deliver events, and give people the chance to participate, and not have to undergo massive hardships for travel in these uncertain times.”

Could the World Championships go abroad?

As the UK pauses all planned attendance for fans at sporting events, the option is there for the PDC to take other events abroad, particularly after the last two weeks have seen successful tournaments in Germany and Austria in front of crowds in safely controlled environments.

Two more European Tour events in Germany will take place over the coming weeks, the World Cup of Darts is slated for Graz in Austria and the European Championship will take place in Dortmund.

Most notably the speculation will also switch to World Championship which is held at Alexandra Palace over Christmas and New Year – where crowds are very much part of the occasion. Talk has been increasing that the sport’s showpiece could head abroad for the first time and, while admitting it was a long shot, Porter did not completely rule it out.

“I think if somebody offered us the option to go to a venue where we could get a worthwhile number of spectators – I’m not saying 50 – if somebody has 500 or 1,000, and it was somewhere you could get to, and somewhere you could get back from, they are equally important factors, and it was somewhere that was suitable to stage such a prestigious event.

PDC Calendar – Upcoming tournaments

September 25-27 German Darts Championship
October 6-12 World Grand Prix
October 16 Women’s Grand Slam Qualifier
October 16-18 European Darts Grand Prix
October 17-18 Women’s Series
October 22 Premier League Darts Play-Offs
October 23-25 International Darts Open
October 29-November 1 European Championship
November 6-8 World Cup of Darts
November 14-22 Grand Slam of Darts
November 27-29 Players Championship Finals

“We’re not going to get too precious about it, but ultimately it is the World Championship. We don’t really want to do it in a warehouse at the back of a car park.

“It’s a long-shot, but I wouldn’t say it’s a non-runner. It would make good business sense but it would also give the event a platform that it deserves.

“It is our blue-riband event. It is the event that people who don’t follow darts throughout the year know about, and it’s the World Championship.

“It deserves a crowd. If it can’t get one in London, but it can get one somewhere else, then we’ll consider. But at the moment, it’s a long shot.”

Darts returns to Sky Sports in October with the World Grand Prix and the Premier League Play-Offs. Follow us @SkySportsDarts to stay up to date with all the news.