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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Darts- BDO Versus PDC.

For a sport (no arguments here, please), as small as Darts, it seems somewhat surprising that there are two separate organisations representing the game. As a youngster slowing becoming encapsulated by the nerveless accuracy of these beer guzzling athletes I could never understand how there were two World Championships occurring at the same time, on the BBC and Sky Sports respectively.
With further research into the subject I discovered how the Professional Darts Corporation had formed after breaking away from the British Darts Organisation in 1992. Sixteen Professional players, all past winners of the BDO World Championship felt that the BBC were not doing enough to televise and to promote the sport. As a result, they joined forces with the ever growing Sky Sports in a effort to further market the game and bring it to a wider audience.
Since those early steps, Darts has exceeded its heady popularity of the 1980's and has become one of England's most well attended sporting events. This was confirmed by the presence of Prince Harry at the recent 2011 PDC Semi Finals. Whether His Majesty has a genuine interest in the sport, or is just there to do what he does best and have a good old knees up, remains disputable. Nevertheless, there is no disputing the growing popularity of 'Arrows', and its impact upon the Great (in it's name alone) British public.
However, there still remains a barrier obstructing the expansion of Darts, and that is the division between the traditional BDO and it's more extrovert rival, the PDC. In fact, only one event per annum incorporates players from both Federations,  The Grand Slam of Darts, with coverage being shown on that Graveyard channel, ITV4. For those interested, and I assume (/hope) you are, the tournament has been won by Phil 'The Power' Taylor of the PDC on three occasions, yet rather surprisingly in 2010 by Scott Waites of the BDO.
Whilst it is fair to comment that the barrier preventing the coalition of the BDO and the PDC remains pretty much invincible and shows no signs of weakening, it appears necessary to outline the differences between the two organisations.

Standard of Darts
  • It is recognised that the overall standard of Darts is stronger in the PDC than the BDO. Statistic often outline how the strongest players in the PDC achieve around 97/98 for their 'three dart averages', whilst the BDO representatives gain an average of 94/95. However, defenders of the BDO underline how the trebles of the PDC dartboards are bigger, and thus easier to hit, making it more likely for them to achieve a greater average. Maybe these averages should not be considered too important, as Bobby George, the great sporting pantheon, underlines how 'trebles are for show and doubles are for doe'.
  • Rating: PDC 8- 6.5 BDO.
  • With initial viewing, it seems that the PDC possesses far greater talent amongst its ranks. This is demonstrated by the presence of Phil Taylor, 15 time World Champion (twice BDO, the rest PDC), Raymond Van Barneveld, five time World Champion (four times BDO, once PDC), and an array of up and coming stars'. Adrian Lewis' recent triumph, and magnificent 9 dart finish, in the final of the PDC over the much heralded Gary Anderson shows the depth of Barry Hearn's organisation.
  • Nevertheless, it is important to remember that Lewis has become the first winner of the PDC World Championship without winning the BDO crown previously. The greater financial incentives offered by the PDC ensures that the best BDO players are often lured away, and it would be churlish to not give credit to the BDO for developing such talented players. Indeed, the recent triumph of the BDO's (although soon to be PDC) Scott Waites at the Grand Slam of Darts emphasises the strength of the BDO. Interestingly, Gary Anderson had never reached a BDO World final in all his years playing in the tournament, and 2008 finalist Kirk Shepherd could only average a dismal 85.10 in the final against John Part. Shepherd, one of our local heroes from Ramsgate, thought it was a good idea to drink a bottle of vodka before going on stage. He got trounced.
  • Rating: PDC 8.5- 7.5 BDO.
  • There is no doubting that the PDC markets the game far better than the BDO, as shown by the Premier League Darts roadshow, and other various Grand Prix events. In all truth, Sky puts the BBC to shame in this department, and it is the BBC's reluctance to invest in the game which is stemming the growth of the BDO. It's quite infuriating to be watching the World Championship's (one of only two tournament's a year shown on the BBC) on BBC 1 or 2 before being told to go over to the wretched red button. However, what with Sky Sports being subscription based, and very expensively I may add, the BBC achieves far greater viewing figures. For example, the BBC's highest rating for a World Championship final stands at over 4 million, whilst Sky's just goes over the one million mark.
  • Rating: PDC 7- 6 BDO
  • Tying in with popularity is the atmosphere of the crowd attending the events of the two organisations. In recent years, the PDC has certainly attracted a large number of followers, and with the use of almost pantomime like stage effects, they have managed to create a raucous atmosphere, which is not to everyone's taste. It's clear that PDC Darts venues now contains many football followers, fuelled by alcohol, chanting drunken songs in support of the players they like, and booing (often foreign competitors) unpopular players. Whether these fans are actually Darts fans remains debatable, however it must be acknowledged that they can create an electric, fervour atmosphere.
  • On the other hand, and in comparison to the PDC, the crowd watching BDO Darts seem far more relaxed, and arguably subdued. Maybe this is down to the far more traditionalist BDO, and it's emphasis upon conduct. Rightly so, in my opinion, crowds are not allowed to boo players whilst they are throwing, and will be kicked out of the venue if they fail to agree to this rule.
  • Rating: PDC 7- BDO 6. The PDC can be a bit over the top, obnoxious and rather crass but it seems to offer a more exciting evening than the BDO.
Commentary and Pundits
  • I think that this is really one aspect of the PDC that desperately needs improving. He may be to some people's tastes, but that excitable, nonsense talking, Geordie twit Sid Waddell turns the Sky's coverage of the PDC into a bit of a Joke That Isn't Funny Anymore. His biased towards certain players is inexcusable, and exudes unprofessionalism. I'm not going to let the BBC lightly off here either; they have the audacity to stage their interviews in the Pub, filming players drink alcohol before they enter the stage. We all recognise that Darts is and always will essentially remain a pub sport, however this sort of lazy, production makes the game seem totally amateur.
  • Many may argue, but I feel that the BBC does have a crucial trump card, and that is the man, the legend, Bobby George. His cockney rhyming slag, and analysis on matches make spectacular viewing, and he is one of the few genuine personalities left in British Sport. He may have his critics, but anyone who takes seven years to build their own house and lives in a caravan whilst doing so, and also plays a Darts final with a broken back, deserves all the plaudits he gets. 
  • PDC 5- BDO 6.5. 
So, there we have it, an extensive appraisal of the two organisations. Despite the fact that the PDC is developing much quicker than the BDO, and has far more marketing potential, I've still got a soft spot for the BDO. There is something really classless about Sky and the PDC, and they seem to ignore the importance of the BDO and its ability to produce World Class players. The ideal scenario would be for the two federations to unify, and for the non subscription paying public be given the opportunity to watch more darts and resultantly become involved. Will this happen in the near future? The answer is an unfortunate and resounding no.
Ladies and Gentlemen, LET'S PLAY DARTS!!!


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  2. I'm not sure that unity of the two groups is the correct way forward. The BDO has more of a grass roots approach to Darts that is inviting to any darter that will give the sport a fair effort. The PDC on the other hand seems very focused on showcasing the cream of the crop with little concern for those who don't fit their approach to marketing darts. Both organizations have their place in the world of darts, and no one organization can be all things to all people. Both organizations have given me great pleasure and enjoyable hours watching the sport of darts.