After months of speculation, the British Darts Organisation’s eight picks for this year’s Grand Slam of Darts have been confirmed.
The cross-code tournament, which has been held every November in Wolverhampton since 2007, pits the best of the PDC against the best of the BDO.
It’s a one-off event, unique in its criteria in including players from the top of both the PDC and BDO rankings, and in the past has provided the platform for darts fans’ fantasy match-ups onto the big stage and on the small screen.
The landscape of the darting world now, compared to the Grand Slam’s inception 12 years ago, has changed, of that there is no doubt.
There are some observers who argue the BDO should not have a quarter of the 32-player field, and instead have four, or none at all.
To take away the BDO’s representation from the Grand Slam would be doing away with the main selling point of the tournament: the PDC vs BDO factor. From a PDC standpoint, they have no plans to do away with the BDO’s involvement.
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But it is quite telling that the PDC are probably now more involved in the BDO’s selection process than they were before. Matt Porter, the PDC chief executive, and Des Jacklin, the BDO chairman, met up recently to hold talks and it was the PDC that announced the BDO’s eight picks earlier today.
The three main talking points over the last few months has been: 1. Should Glen Durrant be selected? Durrant won his third BDO World Championship at Lakeside in January, before making a successful switch over to the PDC and is now up to 30th on the PDC Order of Merit.
No longer a BDO player, Durrant’s inclusion as a BDO pick was divided. To guarantee both the reigning PDC and BDO world champions in the field is a good move for the tournament, but if a player outside the top five goes and wins the World Masters at the Circus Tavern next week, you could be forgiven for feeling sympathetic that their major title would not include the prize of a place in Wolverhampton next month.
This isn’t the first time the reigning BDO world champion, now a PDC player, has still been selected in the Grand Slam. Stephen Bunting, the 2014 Lakeside winner, was chosen in the BDO’s eight later that year, despite switching over after winning the title.
In 2015, the PDC made the Grand Slam a ranking event, which adds a different dimension for Durrant, as any money he wins in Wolverhampton will not go to his ranking, as he is representing the BDO that week. Although, sitting at number 30 in the world, less than a year into his PDC career, Durrant is still in a very impressive position right now.
The second talking point: should the ladies be involved? Last year we saw the PDC introduce two qualifiers for ladies into their own World Championship. Lisa Ashton and Anastasia Dobromyslova, two of the BDO’s leading ladies, both won through to play at Ally Pally and drew plenty of publicity to the event.
The ladies have played at the Grand Slam before. Dobromyslova famously beat Vincent van der Voort on the Civic Hall stage back in 2009, but since then the ladies have not appeared in the BDO’s picks.
Ashton’s growing stature in the game, coming within a whisker of winning a PDC tour card in January, as well as Mikuru Suzuki’s popularity in Asia, has led to more and more calls for the ladies to return to the Grand Slam this year.
Both Ashton and Suzuki are in, which is a fair decision. With Suzuki, as the reigning world champion, and Ashton as the number one ranked player, you could not include one without the other.
Leighton Bennett, the 13-year-old BDO world youth champion, was the other player drawing plenty of debate. Is 13 too young an age to play in an event of this magnitude?
His name was discussed by Porter and Jacklin, Bennett’s management and family, and the decision was made not to include him.
The PDC’s Development Tour has a minimum age requirement of 16, so to then allow a 13-year-old in one of their biggest televised events would look a little out of line.
No doubt, Bennett’s time will come. He will be 14 when he takes to the stage at the Indigo at the O2 in January. He has qualified for the men’s World Championship in his first year playing the BDO tour.
If he were to go and win the whole thing, then that would open up another can of worms trying to leave him out of the 2020 Grand Slam as a 14-year-old.
But that’s a debate for another time. We have our BDO eight. Some will be happy with all eight picks, some not, but the continued debate on who to be picked shows that the BDO’s place in the Grand Slam is here to stay for a little while longer.