Getting away from some of the problems affecting darts on this side of the Atlantic, I'd like to keep it pretty simple this time.
Founded more on fact than opinion, I'll tell you about the different "governing" bodies of world darts, and the major tournaments
staged by these associations.
It's amazing just how many people still don't know the difference between the major organizations, and who plays for who.
Of course, I am often the subject of these misconceptions, seeing as I am not the only Steve Brown in action these days!
While I am now concentrating on the WDF circuit (which I will address later), there is a younger Steve Brown competing on
the PDC circuit. One of the big problems is that some still think of me as the "English" Steve Brown, even though I've been
representing the United States for some 15 years. The other Steve really is still English, coming from Bristol.
Anyway, you may have come to the conclusion that there are two major world associations in darts. If so, you would be correct.
The World Darts Federation (WDF) is recognized as the worldwide governing body for steel-tip darts, in much the same way as
FIFA (soccer - ie real football!) and the FIM (motorcycling). Membership is open to all official national organizing bodies,
such as the ADO (U.S.A.), SDA (Switzerland), and NDF (Netherlands), and currently numbers 67 nations. All individual members
of these national associations are considered members of the WDF.
Members of the ADO can - and are encouraged to - qualify for WDF events such as the World Masters and World Cup, by means of
our Regional/National playoff system. We can also qualify for the World Masters by winning the 501 singles events at one or
more of our six WDF-ranked tournaments (Las Vegas Open, Virginia Beach Classic, Charlotte Open, Houston Open, USA Dart Classic,
and Denver Open), or by claiming one of our National Championships (501 and cricket).
In addition, players can accrue points from the above events in order to qualify for the Lakeside World Championship via the
BDO Invitational Table (see below).
The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) is the body for "professional" darts worldwide. As a result of greater prize money
and media coverage, many of the top PDC players are full-time professionals, whereas only a handful of WDF players
(myself included) play darts for a living. In reality, the PDC is only a sanctioning/organizing body, and true membership is
limited. Individual players cannot become direct members of the PDC, but instead, must join the Professional Darts Players
Association (PDPA) in order to enjoy the full benefits of the PDC.
So, where does the British Darts Organisation (BDO) fit into this? Many of you will have heard about "BDO" events and players,
but the BDO is simply a member of the WDF. The reason that they get more publicity than other national associations is because
the BDO host both the Lakeside World Championship (formerly known as "The Embassy") and the World Masters. Qualification for
these is based on the BDO Invitational Table rather than the WDF World-Rankings.
The BDO was formed in 1973, and immediately introduced the British Inter-Counties Championship (BICC). The BICC is pretty much
the equivalent of an inter-state championship over here, with over sixty county teams currently active. In order to represent
any of the "home countries" as they are known (England, Scotland, and Wales), players must compete in the BICC.
It wasn't long before the BDO got involved internationally, and in 1974 sent a team New York to play the Americans, who were
then under the jurisdiction of the USDA. Later that year came the inaugural World Masters in London, sponsored by Phonogram.
1976 saw the formation of the WDF, and international competition really began to blossom. The World Cup was introduced the
following year, and in 1978, Welshman Leighton Rees became the first ever Embassy World Professional Champion.
As I said at the very start, I'm not interested in reasons or opinions, so I will just state that the
World Darts Council (WDC) was formed in 1992. Original plans to work alongside the BDO/WDF fell through, and the
now famous "split in world darts" came a year later. The WDC's first World Championship was held at the end of 1993,
and although it took a while to become established, the WDC was renamed the PDC, and the rest - as they say - is history!
Events and Players
These days, players competing in the PDC events are the real household names of the sport, which comes as a direct result
of television interest. Even though most of these tournaments are still broadcast on a "cable" channel, Sky TV has a huge
worldwide audience, and don't forget that they can also be viewed in the U.S. via online streams. The important thing to
remember here is that most of these tournaments receive 40-80 hours of LIVE coverage.
As far as the WDF events, there is very little TV outside of the BBC's abridged screenings of the World Championship and
World Masters. The online service, World Darts Television, is a useful tool, but most of the action is recorded.
With players out there like Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, John Part, and Simon Whitlock, it's no wonder that the PDC
is considered the stronger of the two organizations. However, the gulf really isn't that big (okay, that is an opinion),
particularly when one leaves Mr Taylor out of the equation. It is true that many of the top WDF players have defected to
the PDC because of the rewards available, but there is still a great deal of quality within the WDF system. Because of the
entire WDF setup, there will always be new players emerging.
In recent years, we have seen not only van Barneveld and Whitlock move, but players like Gary Anderson, Mark Webster, Co Stompe,
and of course, the lovely Anastasia Dobromyslova. However, that still leaves the class of Martin Adams, Tony O'Shea,
Scott Waites, Robert Wagner, and Joey ten Berge.
So, to finish up, here are the major tournaments from either side of the fence :
Lakeside World Championship (January)
World Masters (Varies - from September to December)
World Cup (Odd years - September/October)
Europe Cup / Americas Cup (Even years in fall/summer)
World Professional Championship (December-January)
World Matchplay (July)
World Grand Prix (October)
UK Open (May)
Premier League (First half of the year)
Grand Slam of Darts (although organized by the PDC, the GsoD is regarded as something of a unification event. There are
a number of invitations extended to WDF players, based on achievement. This also means that it is the one PDC major open
to players without necessitating membership of the PDPA. Held in the fall.)