With darts’ biggest event, the PDC World Championships, only six weeks away, we thought we’d take a look into the history of what is by far and away the biggest administrative body in the sport, the PDC.
Created in 1992, the PDC stands for the Professional Darts Corporation and was initially known as the World Darts Council. It was established following an internal disagreement about the management of the British Darts Organization (BDO) and about the prize money that was on offer.
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Break Away Of The BDO
At the time, a group of sixteen of the top players, including every single previous BDO world champion who was still active in the game, decided to take matters into their own hands. These players were under the leadership of sports promoters Tommy Cox and Dick Allix, both of whom used their own money to fund the fledgling organisation.
Together they made the decision to break away from the BDO in order to elevate darts to a new stature. They would do this to rid the game of its drink culture image by attracting new sponsors and, critically, a shiny new satellite TV coverage deal.
Bringing things to an end, the last unified world championship, and by that time the only televised event on the BDO, to be held was the Embassy World Championship in 1993. During the tournament the WDC players each displayed their new WDC logos on their shirts but were told to remove them by the BDO.
The WDC darters then came to the conclusion that if the BDO would continue to refuse to recognise them, then they would no longer compete in the Embassy tournament which then led to a law suit. The aftermath of this led to the fledgling organisation changing its name from the WDC to the PDC.
The BDO banned the rebellious darters from playing in county darts tournaments and even threatened their own members with banishment for any player who took part in exhibition events with WDC players.
The newly-born organisation’s first event was the (the Lada) UK Masters which was broadcast on Anglia Television. The first World Championship was held in 1993/94 during the end of the year festive period, which is still its place in the darts calendar today.
New PDC TV Deal
The inaugural World Championships was the event that kickstarted the historical partnership between PDC and Sky Sports that gave the game new lifeblood. Currently, Sky Sports broadcasts all of the major tournaments with a handful of events shown live on the telly on ITV.
PDC competitions are also routinely shown in Germany, where the game is growing at an incredible rate, the Netherlands who are producing many of the world’s best darters, as well as Australia, Hungary, India, Japan, Singapore, South Africa and the US.
In an effort to attract a wider, younger and more gender-diverse audience the PDC set about innovating and developing the sport’s core outreach by changing the way in which professional tournaments are staged.
Fans are encouraged to dress up and sing football songs while music, such as Planet Funk’s 2000 single “Chase the Sun,” is played during the breaks. The players, too, have their own signature walk on songs, accompanied by pyrotechnics and smoke machines and, in the case of Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright, dancing. The darters are also introduced into the arena by PDC Master of Ceremonies John McDonald in the style more famously related to Wrestling or Boxing.
This has transformed the game into not only a sport but a boozy night out with the mates. No tournament is more attributed to than the PDC World Darts Championships, suitable given that that was the event that kickstarted the organisation in the first place.
Develop And Spread of the PDC
As of 2001, promoter Barry Hearn, more famously associated with boxing or snooker, became the chairman and as such works closely with a specialists team in order to further develop and spread professional darts worldwide.
Alongside the annual PDC World Darts Championships, the World Darts Matchplay, Premier League of Darts, World Grand Prix, UK Open and Grand Slam of Darts are the major events to be followed by all darts fans.
Besides the competitions it hosts, the PDC has also introduced a ranking system known as the PDC Order of Merit which is based on player performances and prize money earned.
As the sport continues to grow all over the world, the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace in London sees a growing number of international players qualify to compete in the sport’s biggest event, giving far more meaning to a what is supposed to be a worldwide tourney.
At the same time, 32 nations now take part in the World Cup of Darts, another PDC event. Plus, through launching the Qualifying School, Development Tour and World Youth Championship, the PDC has ensured that it is taking a proactive approach into making sure that there is a growing respect and professionalism for darts as a sport in general, as well as attracting a talented pool of younger players to keep the game thriving.