Thursday 14 March 2019

Proposed Challenge/Development Tour reforms

Alex questioned on the Weekly Dartscast today whether, in the future, the Development Tour could be expanded to further weekends, and whether it could expand to new venues. I like this idea, and here's how I would go about it, also considering the Challenge Tour to expand in the same way.

The first thing to think about is that it's already a crowded tournament calendar, especially when you now consider that the Challenge Tour players are able to play BDO events in the same cycle following the reforms. So with the big payoff for both tours being tour card spots, Ally Pally qualification, and further other benefits (Dev Tour guys and girls getting into the world youth, Challenge Tour players getting into the following season's UK Open and also being on the countback table to get into Pro Tour events), it's hard to say how you could fit in extra events considering most players will want to play the whole tour to maximise their chances of finishing as high up the order of merit as you can.

The simple answer is this, and it's something the BDO does for Lakeside and other sports also do - not have every event count towards the rankings, only your best n results.

I'd propose to expand to eight weekends, with three events in each, and after each weekend you take your best 2/3rds of results and have those count - so after the first weekend you count the top two, the second weekend the top four etc, and so on until at the end of the season you have sixteen events counting. Thus you only need to play six out of eight weekends as a minimum over the course of a year to get your full quota, so you no longer necesarily have to miss out on, say, a big BDO event, a large open, Euro Tour qualifiers or SDC events that you might otherwise prioritise.

Note how I say three events in each - I would have one on each day, and one event spanning two days, playing down to the first money round (last 64) as the first event is concluding (using the spare boards you'd have as soon as you can obviously), then finishing it off the following morning, something I've suggested previously. This has two effects - firstly it cuts the length of the day significantly, I think most people accept that the secondary tours have bloody long days and that while stamina is a skill, it shouldn't be as much of a war of attrition as it is now. Secondly, it allows to expand to more venues over more weekends without having the prize money expenditure explode - if you keep it the same, it's another 40k per tour per year, plus the costs of three extra venues. Obviously some of this is offset by entry fees, but it's not a huge sum of money given the amount of cash there is in darts nowadays. If you could find an extra hundred grand to give to the world champion in 2019 compared to 2018, you can surely find an extra hundred grand to help grow the future of the sport. It might also allow you more options of venues if you don't need to find somewhere capable of holding the number of boards that the Challenge Tour needs.

Right now, the Challenge Tour has three weekends in Wigan, one in Wolverhampton and one in Peterborough, while the Development Tour also has three in Wigan, with one in Milton Keynes and one in Hildesheim. This really isn't great unless you live in the north of England, so what I would look to do is the following:

- For the Challenge Tour, add one event in the Netherlands (here's a thought - you have a huge open that takes place round about the time the first weekend of the Challenge Tour starts - split the venue costs with the people that host the Dutch Open and have your event precede that. Got to think there's going to be loads of Challenge Tour players that would want to play that as well, may as well not need to travel twice), add one somewhere near Bristol/Cardiff and then one somewhere on the M8 corridor.

- For the Development Tour, add an event in Europe again (Belgium maybe? Hasselt's pretty close to all the borders and they've hosted events there before), then one somewhere in the Midlands and another somewhere in the south of England. Maybe shift one of the Wigan events a bit further north, perhaps to Newcastle or somewhere like that.

I'd like to think that this would address a lot of the issues that the secondary tours have at the moment, while allowing for a naturally sized expansion of the tours. Thoughts appreciated.

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