A BBC Licence To Print Money

Phil Taylor and Michael van GerwenWe will make a small diversion from darts coaching this month to discuss other darts issues. For some players taking our coaching advice and practising hard on the board, it is because they want to be professional dart players. Who can blame them?  Darts, on the face of it, is a viable career option these days with a seemingly unlimited amount of prize money on offer at the PDC.

The BDO has taken a bit of a bashing over the past few weeks – a “high profile” tournament had to be cancelled or postponed depending on what spin you are listening to. Then just to kick a darts organisation when it’s down the BBC decided not to renew their contract to broadcast the Lakeside. After 38 years of history the gaping hole in the Beeb’s sporting budget has to be dealt with and Lakeside has been axed.

But what’s this got to do with becoming a pro darts player? Every sport needs a pathway – in darts you could call it Pub to Pro! So you move from your back bedroom with a board to the pub team – Super League – County – The BDO Circuit – Lakeside.  Simplistic, yes, but you get the picture.

The PDC are trying to mimic this BDO pathway themselves. They have a youth tournament and a Development Tour. You are then sold the dream to join the Pro Tour where hundreds of players pay hundreds of pounds to try to “live the dream” on the PDC tour by getting a card at Q School.

The stark reality, though, for any wannabe pro darts player is that it is only the small minority that can make a living from darts. When you get down to say number 50 in the two-year PDC rankings, the figure earned is £40,000; £20,000 per year. Move down to 60 in the rankings and it’s £11,000 per annum. Not a full time wage without even factoring in expenses. The top 32 is a different matter – £50,000 p/a up to MVG’s £500,000 p/a-plus. The point being there is only a very small number of players who can claim to be Pro’s!

So is the BDO a better option? Well, you can enter most tournaments for a very modest sum. This gives you the chance to gain experience and if successful you can start factoring in perhaps going to some European events to try to win the points to get you to the Winmau Masters or for a tilt at the £100,000 on offer at The Lakeside. The BDO have traditionally got the youth started in the game (and still do) as well as embracing the ladies’ game.

This is why I cringed at the BBC’s decision to axe Lakeside. I cringe even more when some people celebrated the BBC bringing the axe down on their coverage because they thought it would ultimately be the end of the BDO.

Be careful what you wish for – every sport needs a pathway and a supporter of the grass roots. The BDO fulfil these roles with aplomb, and all you wannabes out there who dream about being the next MVG, just get your history books out and see where the “Green Machine” started to learn his trade. Yes, the BDO and Lakeside way back then and televised by the BBC!

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Paul is a qualified Sports Performance Analyst and mad about darts! He has a Masters degree from the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff (UWIC) in the Performance Analysis of Sport and also has a degree in Football Studies from Southampton Solent University.