After a tough few months, the BDO managed to get a free to air TV event, with a good field and decent prize fund, played over the Bank Holiday weekend on Dave TV. New sponsors were secured and many fans looked forward to a fresh start for players, officials and fans alike. After watching large slices of coverage and reviewing some of the predictions and comments made before and after the tournament, was the WDT a runaway success? A decent start, or another false dawn?
This was a definite success. Congratulations are due to Dave and the outside broadcast company. Some of the best elements of SKY coverage were added and most of the outdated BBC habits were removed. Whilst improvements could still be made, presenters knowledge and a few rough edges, the coverage and commentary was professional, refreshing, simple and in keeping with the sport.
Hit and miss would be the call here, there were some very entertaining games with new names and old favourites contributing well. Sadly there were a few too many poor games especially in the early stages and then The Final! In this respect it could be said to have been unlucky. Almost all the players capable of exceptional standards, and experienced enough to deliver them in those conditions, were knocked out earlier. The players were also disadvantaged by the BDO having very few other events with similar formats. Thus the long days told on the players especially those with less experience. A win for the well thought of veteran Daryl Fitton helped considerably.
The ladies event also proved a mixed bag. Lisa Ashton produced a performance that suggested darts should be a non segregated sport, by recording a 98 average over the course of a TV match. Sadly some other matches suggested that the ladies game is not yet strong enough in-depth for this amount of TV coverage to be a success.
This must go down as a near disaster. To change the format of a competition whilst it is running is very poor and to have to extend arranged television sessions shows poor planning. The late venue switch, together with poor marketing and ticket sales, did not create the image of a well backed sport full of star players that can attract new viewers and sponsors.
The securing of a major high street sponsor appears on the surface to be a great achievement. It is superb to see a non gambling, drinking or similar sponsor getting involved in darts. However a large note of caution must be sounded. The two sponsors were in fact one. Dunlop is a brand name owned by Sport Direct and although this is perfectly legitimate it remains to be seen the fees paid were similar to those expected for two main sponsors of a sports TV major. Secondly, Mike Ashley and his company are ruthless negotiators who extract large quid pro quo’s in return for their patronage. The current court cases involving Glasgow Rangers should serve as a warning. They are also expert at getting free or incredibly cheap advertising. There could be a risk here of making a deal with “the devil”.
It will be impossible to give a true verdict on the success or failure of The WDT for a least a few months. If Dave or another similar channel are happy with the viewing figures, and the image presented, and sponsors willing to stay or get involved, then this may well have been the starting point of something very positive for the BDO.
However if it turns out that the sponsors paid little, the venue were unhappy with the crowds, and that the event was propped up by the BDO itself, then it will be difficult to see how their other main events including The Lakeside World Championship will thrive in the open market.
From a darts enthusiast’s point of view the event was mainly enjoyable with more positives than negatives. It reminded me of watching selected games from The Championship and then the play offs. Entertaining and dramatic in its own right with some players looking like they could compete in the top division. Yet still with the caveat that week in week out I would rather see the very best in action with huge crowds the best venues and professional standards in every area. So definitely a success.
But also perhaps one that provides an uncertain context for the future?