The first round of the World Matchplay is now over, with many of the top 16 seeds tumbling out at the first round. The question is now being asked is the schedule too much for the top stars? World number two Gary Anderson was very outspoken about this, after his first round win over Christian Kist. The Scot tour into PDC bosses over the schedule and questioned whether world number one, Michael van Gerwen had been given an unfair advantage. In an angry interview with Sky Sports on Saturday Anderson said
“I always thought the reigning champion opened the night at the darts?” Anderson questioned. “You’ve got me and James (Wade) here, and we’re absolutely done in. I thought Michael would have been playing tonight as the reigning champion, but somehow he’s disappeared and he’s playing on Monday.”
“You saw Wadey earlier; he was absolutely shattered. I think we’ve been done over with the schedule. I think it’s a scam against the old boys to get us out of the way, but unfortunately, we can still play.”
Is the Tour too much?
The top PDC starts that have played in the recent World Series have clocked up the air miles over the last three weeks. First, for most it was a flight from the UK to Shanghai, then play in the tournament. Then it was 36 hours traveling from Shanghai to Vegas vile Beijing, then play in the US Darts Masters. Most arrived home on Monday from Las Vegas then having to play on the Saturday in the World Matchplay. For most, it was also a day’s traveling to get to Blackpool. That amount of traveling around the world so close to the second biggest tournament in the PDC calendar does seem a bit crazy in my opinion. The reason this is such a sore subject is that the World Series prize money doesn’t go on players world ranking, and the World Matchplay does making it a far more significant competition for the players. Phil Taylor pulled out of the US Darts Masters saying he was ill, when many around the sport believe it was done so he could get ready for his last year at Blackpool.
Anderson also raised a valid point, when he said about Michael van Gerwen not playing on the opening night. The defending champion has always opened the show, so why wasn’t it done this year? Sky Sports punted Wayne Mardle looked rather uncomfortable after the Gary Anderson match on Saturday, as the former player turned punted had to agree that the champion typically opens up the show and couldn’t answer why it hadn’t happened this year. So have the PDC shown the world champion special favoritism?
My worry for the sport is that many of the top stars will start to make themselves unavailable, for things like the World Series if they continue to conflict with ranking events. This would be a great shame for darts as the World Series if players chose not to play. As it has helped grow the sport in new countries over the last three years, and it’s my belief that this should continue, so a compromise needs to be found if we want the sport to continue to grow.