The British Darts Organisation’s chairman Des Jacklin spoke exclusively to the Weekly Dartscast last week on a range of subjects, including the World Championship and World Masters venue changes, the mass exodus of referees, Grand Slam picks and more. Here’s the full transcript…
We have to start with the big news from last week, the BDO World Championship is moving away from the Lakeside to the Indigo at the O2 next year. How tough a decision was that to make to leave a venue which had held the event for such a long time?
Huge decision, really, really tough. One of the toughest decisions that I’ve had to make since being the chairman, to be fair. When I took on this role, I kind of said to myself I’m going to treat it as if it was my own business as much as I could, and that’s been very difficult to do as well, because I think if it had been my business it would have been a no brainer. I would have been at the O2 in a heartbeat. But when I’m making the decision for so many other people, thousands and thousands of people, fans, players, supporters and the people that work alongside me on the board. It was a huge decision, we’ve been there for 34 years. It was such a big decision that people don’t call it the World Championship. People call it the Lakeside. Over the years the event has morphed into the Lakeside World Championships. It’s been so difficult to comprehend moving to start with, but things have to move forward, don’t they?
Were there any other venues that the World Championship could have been moved to apart from the Indigo, and how and when did the O2 come onto your radar as a potential home for the BDO’s biggest tournament?
There were other venues. There was several actually, and venues not only in the UK. We were looking at many venues. We visited them, just for one reason or another something wasn’t quite right. The O2 was brought into the frame probably about five years ago, six years ago before I was on the BDO board at all. For one reason or another it was never pursued and I said, before I became the chairman, I said when I was the players’ director the year before, that the Indigo at the O2 I believe was actually ideal for our championships. It was never my decision then and I never had enough authority to push that forward. Now, of course, I have and for the past 18 months, certainly the past year whilst I’ve been the chair, I’ve had a close working relationship with people around the O2 and it was touch and go for last year. It was just a little bit too late, even for the BDO’s standard, it was just too late to get us in the O2 for last year. We went back to the Lakeside. This year I couldn’t leave it any longer. Things just worked out the way they did and as soon as the time was right and all the boxes were ticked, I said let’s get it announced and that’s exactly what we did.
What’s the prize money going to be for the Worlds and if there’s a sponsor who’s going to pay for it, who are they?
As far as sponsorship goes, we have several sponsors in the frame. I don’t know exactly who will be sponsoring what. I don’t know whether it will be one big sponsorship that is apportioned, or whether one sponsor will sponsor the ladies, one sponsor will sponsor the hotel. It will broken down possibly, I don’t know. That’s something that I won’t be personally getting into, all I do is give a yay or ney on the money. What I can say is that the men’s prize fund will stay the same at £300,000. The ladies prize fund will be almost doubled. So will we be going from £29,000 to £54,000 for the ladies. The way that that will be broken down, the first round, second round and semi-finals, the runner-up, their prize money will all double. So, the first round goes from £500 to £1,000, and so on. The winner’s prize fund will go from £12,000 to £20,000.
The format for the ladies World Championship, will that be increased as well?
I certainly hope so. I think it needs to be. It’s something that I’ll be pushing for. What we have to bear in mind is, no matter how we think it’s the right decision, you would think the ladies format increasing would be the correct thing to do. However, we are kind of, it’s not just our decision, the timeframe of the actual event, it’s down to the scheduling. I think that it is most likely that the schedule will allow us to increase how long we see the ladies play for. I would imagine that in the first round it would increase slightly, all the way to the final. I’m hoping so. It’s something that has to be discussed and has to be right. We can’t just do something on a trial and error basis. It has to be right, so there are scenarios that we’re going to be putting in place, leading up to the World Championships. We’ve got a little bit of time for this. It’s not like the Trophy, which is upon us, we’ve got a little bit of time to put different scenarios into the mix and I think that yes the format should increase for the ladies.
What do you feel will be the main pluses to having the event at the O2 and on the other side what are going to be the main challenges for making it a success?
The pluses at the O2, the biggest plus is the location. It’s the biggest attraction, venue I believe in the world. I think it’s sold out more than any other venue in the world. How can that not be beneficial to you? We are being backed by one of the biggest companies in the world. They are putting everything that they have behind this event, to make this event a success. I don’t see how it can fail. For me if it was my business it would be simply a no brainer. I think the challenges, the biggest challenges have got nothing to do with the venue. The biggest challenge is for me are the comments and what is stirred up on social media. That for me is the biggest challenge. I have to turn people around and make them see that yes, the Lakeside was an iconic venue, and everybody has so much love for the Lakeside. But in one way or another for whatever reason it may be, everything has to evolve, everything has to move on. I think that the biggest challenge will be to get people behind this product, get behind our company and give it a go, before we’re getting dissed before we’ve even got started. Let’s give it a go. I see those as the main thing which I have to contend with right now.
We also saw a new venue confirmed for the World Masters. The televised stages are going to be held at the Circus Tavern. How excited are you to be bringing televised darts back to such an iconic venue?
Well, again this is the world that keeps being banded about: iconic. It just simply is. It’s the Circus Tavern. It ticks so many boxes for us. It’s just about the right size for the World Masters. It has the iconic name, the place where it is. It excites me to think that one of our biggest events is going to be at the Circus Tavern, and I really can’t wait for that very first game on the stage, being shown live on Eurosport. I just can’t wait to see it.
One of the big talking points from the announcement of the World Masters was the change to the old format. The seeds no longer go straight through to the TV stages. What was the thinking behind that decision?
I will say the ladies. I’m going to stick my head out here and say the ladies. The situation is, I think everyone that knows me, because my wife has played darts for many, many years, and I first got into the darts because of Paula. I was a big fan of the ladies darts and I still am. Things had to change when I became the players director, and change even more so when I became the chairman. I have to no favouritsm between the two, even though I prefer to watch a good ladies game than I do a good men’s game. The reason why the seeds have now got to play from the floor, from the first round, is because again down to scheduling. The schedule allows us to have around about 40 players, so if we have 16 seeds in the men’s that gives us 32 and we only have eight ladies left over. Four of those have to be seeds. So why should the ladies suffer and only have four seeded through to the finals, when our own rules say we have eight ladies if there is a 64 entry or more, and if there’s more than 128 ladies we have 16 seeds. I don’t see why the ladies should continue to get the bad wrap. I don’t see why they should get that. The only way to stop that is to have everybody playing on the floor and just playing under their seed. That’s the way forward. I believe it was the right decision and I understand that some people don’t agree with it, but I think it was the right decision to make. Just to further, how bizarre this, someone said could we not separate it so the ladies have eight seeds or 16 seeds, depending on entries, and they play from the floor, but the men get seeded through to the stage. That is just as much of an insult as anything else. We’ve seen popularity in the ladies grow. We’ve seen the figures for Eurosport, no it was the right thing to do. I stand by it.
We have to ask you about the resignations of a lot of the top BDO referees recently. From your view point why did they decide to leave?
It did come as a shock to everybody, Richard Ashdown and the rest of the team resigning. It didn’t come as a shock to me because Richard had already told me that he’d resigned two months ago. I just don’t agree with the way that it was done on social media. That was my only issue with the resignations. If people aren’t happy, for whatever reason they might have, are entitled to move onto pastures new. But when you agree to something, I think it should be stuck by. I just didn’t like the way it was played out on social media. And clearly one of my sponsors didn’t like it, because they puled out of one of the deals at one of the venues and cited this as the reason. If it wasn’t for the fact that I flew back from my holiday early, went and spoke to them and got them back in, and now they are back in and fully supporting the cause again. It could have all gone really quite poorly for us, just on that decision that was made to play out the resignations on social media.
Another talking point is of course the Grand Slam and the picks for the BDO’s eight player allocation for the event. With Glen Durrant moving to the PDC, do you know yet how the plans to allocate those eight places now?
I have a good idea. I think most people have a good idea how it’s going to happen. I do have a meeting scheduled very shortly and I think that it would be wrong of me to really speak about that yet until after the meeting. I don’t want to say anything that isn’t correct. What I would like to say, I’d like to set the record straight with the whole BDO/PDC scenario. I think there’s been a lot of things put on social media about how the BDO, I’ve said that the BDO can rival the PDC. I don’t think I’ve ever said the BDO can rival the PDC. I’ve said that we can be just as professional. I think I know our place, where our place should be in this sport, as the BDO, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us striving to get to that place. I think the thing we need to do is act far more professionally, which is what I’m trying to do and trying to encourage others around me to do at every opportunity. At no point do I think we can rival the PDC, and to be fair, in the nicest possible way, I don’t think I would want to rival the PDC. We have a completely different place in the market. I know where that place is and I won’t stop until I get us there.
Listen to the interview with Des on the new Weekly Dartscast podcast, as well as interviews with Brendan Dolan and Chris Mason, via the player below