PDC chief executive Matt Porter expects May’s Premier League Darts dates to be postponed, and is preparing for a three-month delay to the darts schedule.
On Tuesday, three more nights in April were rescheduled as the coronavirus continues to put the sporting year on hold – meaning the whole month of competition has now been pushed back.
Berlin, Manchester and Birmingham became the latest cities on the annual darting roadshow to draw up contingency plans, and Porter admits more will follow
“It’s unprecedented times, challenging times not just for us and for sport but for the wider world so it’s important to get a sense of perspective,” he told The Darts Show podcast.
“We have been working through it. We announced on Tuesday that all the Premier League nights in April are postponed – it’s more than likely the May ones will be too, but we are working through the challenges associated with those.
“I think it’s fair to say you can write off most of the next three months… [it’s] a difficult position to get anything up and running again.”
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The remaining dates are Glasgow, Leeds and London on May 7, 14 and 21 respectively, with the latter originally scheduled as the finale to the 17-night competition. But with Judgement Night in Rotterdam already postponed, the whole Premier League now looks like taking place from July 2 onwards.
Newcastle on October 1 is the final date on the provisionally rescheduled rotation and with three more dates likely to fit in, further announcements are expected as logistics are worked through.
“At the moment, we don’t want to look too long-term. It’s an ever-changing situation and we don’t know what it will be like in six weeks, six months, or however long it may be,” Porter added.
“Things are looking very different and we can’t afford to be too precious about which nights or which cities we get in before Judgement Night, or when there might be a break or where the Finals will be.
“It is a case of fitting things in where we can. So far we have been fortunate in being able to reschedule everything for a Thursday and that’s great because I think people still associate Thursday with Premier League Darts.
“We don’t want to go much later than October, we have the Grand Prix, the Grand Slam, the European Championship, Players Championship, and the World Championships.
“We were a little bit ahead of the game in speaking to many of our venues three or four weeks ago just to pre-empt it so we have had back-up dates in place longer than others may have so we are hopeful the Premier League will be done by Dublin and the Grand Prix.”
European Tour dates have already been affected and with a World Cup and World Series events still scheduled for May and June, Porter’s admission of the next three months raises huge doubts over how possible those may be, with global travel restricted in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
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Provisional revised Premier League Darts schedule
As attention turns to the second half of the year, there is the added difficulty of ranking points, qualification for premier tier events and even more importantly, the players’ livelihoods to think about.
Porter is well aware of the challenges the players may face in the coming months as the exhibition circuit closes down, as well as the lucrative prize money on offer on a weekly basis.
“We hope to put as much of the calendar on as possible to give our players as much of a Tour as we can,” said Porter, who will work with the Professional Darts Players Association [PDPA] in the coming weeks and months.
“We are conscious of the fact that darts players are self-employed and technically they are not earning any income at the moment, other than those who may be fortunate enough to have sponsors.
“Most of them rely on prize money and exhibition income and they are going to be struggling so we will speak to the PDPA as we don’t want to see players fall off the radar.
“It is important for players to communicate with us if they do find themselves in a difficult position and if we have to look at putting things together to help them get through these times, then so be it.”
The next major ranking event is scheduled to be the World Matchplay in Blackpool in the middle of July. Between now and then, a succession of Players Championship and European Tour events offer players the chance to climb the rankings list and qualify for the TV tournaments.
“Rankings aren’t changing at the moment because nobody is playing, so we will look at how things pan out,” said Porter.
“We can’t get to a situation where money keeps coming off the rankings and nothing is going on to replace it, because everyone’s position would drop off a cliff.
“It is not something we have come to a decision about yet. We are in the early stages of disruption – but we will work with the PDPA on the fairness. They are very good at looking out for the different categories of member.
“Although everybody may have a Tour Card, not everybody is in the same boat – some people may be comfortable with money and others less so. Some will be defending a lot of prize money from this time two years ago, again others will be less so.
“We have to make sure that the changes, if we make any, are fair and transparent for all but hopefully if we can get as many events staged as possible, then we can give players as much chance as possible to top their rankings up.”
As sport prepares for a changed landscape, Porter admits the PDC is constantly evaluating next steps, but like the rest of the world, there is no definitive answer.
“Whether restrictions are relaxed at some point in the future and we are able to put floor events on for the players’ benefit only, that’s speculation.
“In controlled situations, with extremely limited numbers of people and certain health and safety regulations in place – none of us know.
“Ultimately there are only so many weekends in the year and with travel, schedules and the like, we can’t ask people and players to be in two places at once.
“When sport is up and running, we treat it as the most important thing that’s out there for us but then things that are genuinely important come up to put everything else in its place.”
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