Monday 4 May 2020

Project Restart

Another week gone by, another week where there's no news whatsoever out of the PDC as to when, or if, they're going to start rescheduling the 3+ months worth of schedule they've cancelled, another week where they're still not moving back the Matchplay a month despite having no events scheduled in the time period before then that count towards qualification - these are very nervous times. The PDC need to do something right now to address this.

What can they do? Well, they can start by moving back the Matchplay, which is something that surely needs to happen regardless of the whole qualification issue, and they also need to schedule a block of qualification events. Book three hotels out for the month of July - one somewhere in the north, one somewhere in the south, and one in continental Europe, where players and support staff can all stay in an isolated environment with the relevant social distancing requirements in the locations where players are, and play a bunch of Pro Tours.

Why three? I don't think it's realistic to get everyone in the same place for that long a period of time, and there are probably going to be some restrictions on the ability of certain players to actually travel (particularly thinking about overseas tour card holders), so having things spread out somewhat makes some sort of sense, even within the UK. They've had enough of a trial with the Home Tour to work out the logistics of holding an event over multiple venues, as long as they can set things up in such a way across venues to have the same playing conditions and Dart Connect things up, I don't think there's quite so much of an issue with not having everyone in the same place.

Why do they need to do this now? Quite simply, for the first time in a long time, the earning potential of non-tour card holders is larger than for tour card holders. David Evans, Paul Nicholson and others are getting a nice bunch of the Modus cake. James Richardson and Paul Hogan have done very nicely from the Remote Darts League. There's lots of events out there which are off-limits to card holders because of the PDC's protectionist "thou shalt not stream" policy, and it's hurting lots of players. There's the Home Tour, for which I'm sure I read players got a monkey for appearance, and that's it.

If the PDC doesn't act very soon, then I think there's a very strong argument for anyone that earned less than £10-15k on the Pro Tour that is in the second year of a two year card to resign their card right now and take advantage of the opportunities in streamed tournaments right now, and then any WDF tournaments once we have a circuit back up and running, if there even is a circuit back up and running before the end of the year. If someone is going to lose their tour card anyway, the amount of earning power someone has by retaining their card is going to be fairly limited, if they were only making that sort of level last year then they are losing in the first round more often than not, so giving up 22 Pro Tours that may or may not all be rescheduled in the future to grab earning rights now has got to be worth considering if you are all but certain to lose your card at the end of the season.

Some points - I think you have to have some way to compensate players who would be unable to make one of these locations due to travel restrictions within their home countries. Even though this is a fluid situation, you've got to think that even two months from now there'll still be countries in full Project Coronafear mode that aren't permitting people to move freely around. If this is the case then I think you need to pro-rate their earnings from qualifying matches in terms of qualification for the likes of the worlds, and either make extra play-in games, bump them through rounds of the PDPA qualifier, give them preferential treatment in regional worlds qualifiers, something like that. Secondly, and this is more pertinent for the European venue, it's probably got to be done in such a way that it's determined to be a place of work, rather than any sort of social gathering. The Netherlands has already given up on lots of things for the foreseeable future (got to feel for Cambuur being screwed out of an Eredivisie spot in the football), Germany is at least getting somewhat back to normal, but there'll still be restrictions to work around. That's Barry and Matt's issue to work round.

The pertinent question really is if Modus, Remote Darts League, or some newcomer were to call up someone like Michael Barnard, Barrie Bates, Jon Worsley, Yordi Meeuwisse, Dave Pallett etc and offer them some appearance money plus the chance to win round about what they'd expect to do on the remainder of the Pro Tour if it was to be fully rescheduled, what incentive do they have to hold onto their card until the bitter end? I have no idea whether someone resigning a card midway through a season would have Challenge Tour eligibility, I'd think probably not and the PDC would use the "must have played a day of Q-School" criteria to invoke Arkell v Pressdram, but if they were to be able to play, it becomes a heck of a lot more enticing with 20 events to possibly play in.

Brief edit - of course, once solution would be for the PDC to waive the bit of the players' contract that prevents them from appearing in streamed events other than ones filmed on their own potatoes, but I can't see them doing that

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