Devon Petersen: African World Series on the way

Devon Petersen: African World Series on the way
Devon Petersen is targeting a World Championship return this winter

Devon Petersen has revealed that talks are well underway for the World Series to expand to South Africa.

In March, the PDC announced that Shanghai would feature as part of a revamped tour in 2016.

And in an exclusive interview with Darts World, Petersen said that the game’s top stars could flock to the Rainbow Nation in as little as two years’ time as the PDC looks to broadcast tungsten from the continent for the first time ever.

“We’ve been in discussion with my event partners in Cape Town and are looking to bring to the World Series here in 2018,” Petersen said. “We’re just in the talking phase right now and seeing what the momentum will be with ticket sales, and what else we need to do to make it profitable. But hopefully by that date we will have a World Series in South Africa.”

Recent installments to the World Series has seen the tournament flourish in the Far East and Oceania.

It could be strongly argued that Africa is somewhat of an untapped area for the PDC in their mission to turn the sport into a global sporting sensation.

As the only African on the Pro Tour, Petersen believes that it has been much more difficult for players from his home nation to make the breakthrough in the professional game due to the financial cost of playing in UK-based tournaments.

“In terms of the breakthrough, a lot of it has been down to sacrifice and leaving your family behind,” he said. “For a lot of people in South Africa, the culture is to work hard and work for your family. If you compare it with other sports, in football you still get paid a salary but darts is purely what you win and what your sponsorships are so if you are not winning it can be a very quiet six months and you need to look at going back home because you can’t work full-time in the UK.

“There are a few players who have missed that opportunity a couple of years back. There are a few youth players coming through now that could be big players with a few years Pro Tour experience. Again, it comes down to financial backing. It is hard for them to do. It’s a gamble. If you don’t get a sponsor within your first six months it can be very costly. It can cost you easily £1000 for accommodation and entry, that’s before you take transport and food into consideration. If you don’t get a sponsor it becomes an uphill battle and you have to perform as well.

“It can be hard to make the initial breakthrough and I was quite lucky in getting a sponsor.

“I don’t think the growth of darts in South Africa is down to the exposure through TV, I think it is down to the financial bearing of the sport with regards to the PDC and BDO. In South Africa, we don’t have a lot of money tournaments; it is more trophy-based in a sense. If we add more money to the tournaments itself players can make a living from it and eventually ply their trade in the UK. But if you need to work five days a week there is no way you can possibly come over to the UK and give it a go.

“The standard of darts in South Africa itself is a really good standard but we’re not exposed to as many international tournaments. If you are a normal player you need to save a lot of money before you can come in to the UK to play. It’s difficult.”

Petersen is a player who comes across as the eternal optimist. After losing a year of his career due to an arm injury, The Spartan has since battled back and maintains a positive outlook on his future in the game, with a return to the Ally Pally stage the main priority after he missed the cut last year.

“I’ve overcome the challenges that I’ve faced strongly and I’ve moved into a much better place on the Order of Merit – but I want to achieve top 50 minimum by the end of this year,” Petersen said.

“The last year has been a lot better than I expected. I am getting a lot more used to the top-quality standard. The last 12 months has been great but I think the next 12 months is going to be amazing.

“Getting back to the Alexandra Palace is definitely on course now. I’m in the running for the Matchplay as well so there’s a lot on board just now. Qualifying for the Worlds comes when you do well in the other tournaments so I’m just taking it one tournament at a time.

Business commitments and family life has meant Petersen spends much of his time making the gruelling 20-hour journey from the township of Mitchells Plain to the UK and back again.

However, the 29-year-old says that a possible permanent relocation to British shores may be in the offing in the near future:“(Commuting back and forth from Cape Town) is effectively life in a suitcase,” he said. “Last year I probably travelled 15 times through the year. This year I will be down to six trips maximum. Because I have so many exhibitions I am staying in the UK for two months at a time before travelling back. It’s still quite tiring.

“Last weekend I only arrived in the UK on Thursday and travelled to Barnsley to play on the Friday morning, it’s basically a full day of travel. It is things you need to battle with as a touring foreign player. It’s something I need to do but I’ve managed it so far and getting a lot better at it. I’m looking for a good six or seven months on tour.

“I would definitely consider moving to the UK. After this year it will be one of those questions where I am going to have to either stay over full-time or look at further movements but I definitely want to move over. The potential of my family coming here in the next year would also motivate me to stay here for the rest of the time I’m playing on tour.”

Petersen is a born entertainer, with his walk-on dance moves almost as prominent as his prowess at the oche. For him, darts should be enjoyed as a form of entertainment as the on-stage camaraderie between Peter Wright and himself as seen in Dusseldorf last year a prime example.

“It changes the dynamic, the profile and the media appeal of the game,” said Petersen. “If it is just guys playing a sport with no real hype, no real entertainment value, it will wither away. With players now changing their character and the way they are, everyone is just trying to create their own profile. It is amazing because their own character is portrayed to the darting community and the audience. The PDC enjoy it because it’s more entertaining. It can help attract sponsorship and then increases Pro Tour winnings for the players.

“There are characters in the sport. It can come across as a dull sport because watching someone throw from 501 is not really as entertaining but seeing emotion and players wearing their heart on their sleeve can be big factors in TV views as well.“

Petersen turns 30 in June – his birthday landing on the same weekend of the World Cup of darts, and reckons an ideal present would be victory for his nation in Frankfurt.

“It’s funny you mention it because I was thinking about it yesterday! Maybe making the World Cup final could be my birthday present.

“I feel that the way I am playing along with Graham (Filby) we are the dark horses to come through. I think we will give a few teams a good game and maybe surprise everybody. You never know, we might just win it.”

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