It has been the home of the BDO World Championship since 1986, but next January the British Darts Organisation’s flagship tournament will be played away from the Lakeside.
The Lakeside Country Club, in Frimley Green, has played host to the BDO World Championship for 34 of its 42 editions, a record which no other major darts tournament comes close to.
Blackpool’s Winter Gardens has hosted every World Matchplay so far, since its inception in 1994, and you hope it will one day match the Lakeside’s 34-year run and better it. The Winter Gardens is an iconic venue in the sport.
Listen to episode 113 of the Weekly Dartscast podcast with special guests Glen Durrant, Devon Petersen and Adrian Gray via the player below
And so is the Lakeside. I was fortunate enough to be there representing this podcast for a few days, midway through this year’s tournament, in January. One of the main reasons for my first pilgrimage to Frimley Green was to see a good friend of the podcast, Dave Parletti, fulfill his dream of playing in a BDO World Championship for the first time.
Another reason, though, was to tick off the Lakeside from my own personal bucket list, and in particular to visit for a World Championship. The plug has not been completely pulled on darts at Lakeside, there are still a few exhibitions planned for later this year, and you would expect, pencilled in for 2020.
But the BDO World Championship and Lakeside went hand in hand. It was a marriage which when we look back on it provided countless memories and moments that will be remembered forever.
In its first year, in 1986, the late Eric Bristow won his fifth and last world title. In 1989, Jocky Wilson won his second and last world title, beating Bristow in a classic final. Who could forget the 1992 thriller between Phil Taylor and Mike Gregory which went to a final set and, until Raymond van Barneveld dethroned Taylor at the Circus Tavern some 15 years later, was regarded by many as the best game ever to be played.
So many moments on that stage, and the last chapter of the BDO and Lakeside’s history came with Glen Durrant winning a third world title in a row last January. Less than a week after we saw Durrant dazzle at the World Matchplay, reaching a first PDC major semi-final, it does seem quite a fitting end.
As one man embarks on the next chapter of his darting career, so to does the organisation which helped make him the star he is today. Of course, there was plenty of sadness among fans, officials and players that the BDO would be leaving Lakeside. But it is time to move on.
Darts has moved on. Back in 1986 there was no PDC, there was no Premier League, or many of the top names we see regular on our television screens, the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Rob Cross and Michael Smith were not even born yet. The PDC have taken the sport to a new level, especially in financial terms, and it is long overdue that the BDO tries to take a slice of the pie themselves.
Yes, it is a brave move by the BDO, but it is not the first gamble the chairman Des Jacklin has made in his first year in charge. The BDO needed to change, to break out of its old habits and bring itself into the modern day. That is not something which can be achieved overnight.
Moving its biggest tournament to the Indigo at the O2, in London, offers them a fresh start. There is still plenty of work for Jacklin and his team to do to make this a success, but now they have a new venue confirmed, their focus can be put solely on making the 2020 BDO World Championship a tournament which properly catapults them into a new era.
Picture: Evert Zomer