Sunday 4 February 2024

Open letter to PDC/PDPA

Just a collection of thoughts/suggestions that would make the global PDC tournament system be fairer and better:

1) Increase the automatic spots from stage 1 to stage 2 at Q-School from 8 to 16

This seems like a no brainer - anyone that loses out at the last 16 stage of any day of stage 1 will be guaranteed enough points to make it through to stage 2, so why schedule an additional eight matches on day 2 and sixteen matches on day 3 for no reason? Just move them through to stage 2 and be done with it.

2) Have Q-School stage 1 act as a top up list for stage 2

This is something I've suggested before (or at least I think I have), and certainly one that other keyboard warriors have thought to be a sensible idea. You already know you are guaranteed to have byes on days 2, 3 and 4 as you are taking the tour card winners out of the equation, so why not do exactly what they do with the Challenge Tour order of merit to top up Players Championship events with Q-School? Anyone who is serious about winning a card will have already budgeted to extend a potential trip should they have qualified for stage 2, this is of course coupled with the likes of players coming in from far overseas who won't have planned for an extension, they will likely have booked for the whole week outright at the start, along with those who live close to the venues in question anyway. Get a full 128 on each day. This also helps to limit the sorts of situations we have seen more than once on the final day where players have missed out on a tour card when they would have won one if they didn't enter - at least with winning in the round of 128 being worth a point (as the round is full), you don't get the asinine situation where you can actually win a game and still potentially be in a worse position than you were. That's something that could also be addressed somehow, but unless you went with Swiss for stage 2 I don't know how you solve the situation in a sensible manner (please nobody suggest using tournament average that's even worse).

3) Have secondary tours operate a "only best n tournaments count towards rankings" rule

This is exactly the same as what the BDO/WDF used (use? WDF criteria change so often it's hard to keep up) to order their rankings. We've seen a few situations where there have been schedule clashes between secondary tours and larger events, and people have had to pick and choose - this year the first Asian Tour weekend was during Q-School, we've seen Euro Tours clash with Development Tours last year (as well as this year with the Leverkusen event), this year we may see some Nordic players get into that World Series from off the tour and miss a Challenge Tour weekend, as well as increasing numbers of opportunities outside the PDC system making scheduling for players trickier. Now I don't think this would make a massive difference to the rankings at all given how hugely top heavy the prize money is (probably makes most difference to something like the qualification for the World Youth), and someone who's going to every event on a secondary tour is naturally going to have more bullets to fire than someone who doesn't, but this might allow people to take opportunities at higher levels knowing they can still effectively max out their potential on a year long tour (albeit the big carrot of getting onto a Euro Tour is now effectively gone).

4) Have the first Challenge Tour weekend be the one with four events

The first weekend is usually the one which has by far the most entrants - not only is it on the back of Q-School, so you may have a lot more players in the area where the events are held, but it is naturally the one weekend most players will enter on account that binking early gives the most calendar in front of you to get Pro Tour call ups. As such, what I'd suggest is to continue to hold it over a three day spell, be it Fri/Sat/Sun or Sat/Sun/Mon, then have the weekday being one event, and the Saturday/Sunday being three - each having one stand alone event, then starting the fourth event not already mentioned on the Saturday, play it down to completing something like the last 128/last 64, and then playing it to a finish on the Sunday, pausing the tournament in the same way that the Dutch Open's done today or as you see in lots of WDF events where they will hold stage finals on the Sunday. This ought to alleviate the issue with playing an absolute ton of darts on a single day, both from a playing and an administrative standpoint.

5) Revert the European Tour rules to the 2023 state

Can't see this happening ever given the PDC have taken this protectionist/commercial decision, but given the near universal backlash at it from more or less everyone outside of Peter Wright, maybe they can just admit they're wrong on this one?

6) Loosen the exclusivity criteria on players about to lose their tour card

This is something that cropped up on Edgar's channel - I do not see what commercial advantage the PDC has in forcing players who are at the end of a bad two year period and are going to drop off the tour to only play in PDC events. Looking at the calendar this year, it is roughly two thirds of the Euro Tours that are after the Matchplay (which are even less relevant for the players in question than they were before), and about half the Pro Tour events. Last year it was even more Euro Tours before the Matchplay. So what I would suggest is that, straight after the Matchplay, players not in the first year of a two year card who are:

a) at least £20,000 behind the provisional tour card race cut off line
b) not provisionally qualified for either the World Championship or Players Championship Finals and are at least £5,000 away from doing so

They are open to play non-PDC events from that point forward. I use those two criteria for a reason - the second one is obvious in that it ensures that, barring a miracle bink of a Pro Tour, or winning the PDPA qualifier, they're not going to be appearing on a TV event and as such hold little commercial value for the PDC. The first one is to really lock down on those who are going to lose a card - by setting the difference at £20k, it ensures that (barring a worlds prize money increase), they could get through the PDPA qualifier for the worlds but would need to beat a seed in order to get anywhere near close enough to retaining their card. This at least gives players options - they may well go to Q-School and get their card straight back, but if they don't, it's given them a 4-5 month window where they can start accumulating WDF ranking points, maybe hit the Lakeside quali, start back earning through the WSDT, Modus etc, rather than just being in a limbo period where they're just seeing out the clock with nothing to really do apart from praying to hit at the PDPA qualifier.

7) Give everybody who wins a card at Q-School the option of a one year card and retaining 2023 prize money on their rankings

This isn't one that I expect to see used that often with the European Tour changes, but I don't really see the benefit of having everybody reset completely to zero - particularly in the event of someone having a good second year of a card, but a stinker of a first one couldn't be overcome. Take Radek Szaganski - as of the start of December, he was provisionally in the Matchplay, now he is on zero. Why shouldn't he have the option of, upon getting his card back, having his 2023 money count - but on the proviso he works in the exact same way as the top 64, in that you do not have a second year to fall back on if you don't go on to make the top 64. Now some might say "but then it's not a level playing field for everyone it's not fair" - but if we enacted it for (again, say) Szaganski now, then by the critical timing point for everyone that won a card last year (i.e. after the 25/26 worlds), all the 2023 money is gone from the ranking anyway - the only advantage is if he was to hold on to major qualification spots. Plus, if the player gambles and loses and doesn't get into the top 64, that is one less player they will need to finish ahead of in order to retain their card. Sure, you might also see whoever gets into the last Matchplay spot as it is now say "but him retaining his ranking money means I don't get to go to Blackpool it's not fair", but if you're really trying to say you are more worthy of a spot than someone who earned more than you did on the Pro Tour in the last twelve months, that's not the strongest argument in the world, is it?

Will probably come back with some thoughts about what's gone on with everything Dutch Open/Challenge Tour etc this week

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