It has been a busy week of announcements so far by the PDC, and the one which has attracted the most attention has been the launch of the Women’s Series.
The darts leader announced on Tuesday afternoon that they will be staging four events, over the weekend of October 17-18, open to all female players aged 16 and above.
The events, which are being billed as a ‘mini-tour’ are replacing the two previous one-day qualifiers for the World Championship, with the two ladies who earn the most prize money across the four tournaments securing the two spots in the 2021 World Championship, due to be held in December this year.
The Women’s Series, which is being put on at the Chase Leisure Centre, in Cannock, is preceded by a free-to-enter qualifier, for the ladies, on the Friday, with the winner securing a spot in the Grand Slam of Darts.
Entry for the Women’s Series is £25 per event, with a prize fund of £20,000 spread out across the four events. When you consider that the reported total prize pot in the ladies’ World Championship, at the O2 in January this year, was £26,500, it’s a fair investment coming in from the PDC here.
Undoubtedly, this is a step in the right direction for the ladies’ game. A free hit at a qualifier, which offers the winner a minimum of three games on stage, and on TV, followed by two days of tournaments, with a prize fund not too dissimilar to what they would find on the BDO/WDF circuit, and with the dangling carrot of two spots in darts’ most lucrative tournament up for grabs for the two best performers.
At the same time, you have to give the PDC credit, they have been clever here. The amount of attention last year’s World Championship got, thanks to the exploits of Fallon Sherrock, one of the two winners from the last ladies’ qualifiers, was in many ways unprecedented for the tournament.
Having the one-day qualifier does not guarantee that the best player will come through every time. Making it over four events gives the stronger players a better chance of coming through, as it allows for an off game or two. The odds on a Sherrock or a Mikuru Suzuki finishing in the top two, and qualifying, are now much smaller.
It is, in essence, a glorified World Championship qualifier. But it is also a chance for the PDC to dip their toe in the water a little bit more with ladies’ darts. PDC chairman Barry Hearn, speaking to the Weekly Dartscast back in April this year, when asked about the possibility of a PDC Women’s Tour, said: “Not really, but all our plans for anything new are on the shelf, because we’ve got to cope with this new world.
“Last year’s entries for the women’s qualifier were down on the year before, that doesn’t encourage me. We asked a lot of women who entered two years ago why they didn’t enter last year and they said they didn’t think they had a good chance.
“The PDC’s attitude is that we have no barriers for entry, we’re only built on ability. It’s up to the women themselves to make an effort to improve and be competitive against the men.”
Doing the math, the PDC will need 200 players to enter every event of the Women’s Series to break even on the £20,000 prize fund they have put up for it. Now the ball is in the ladies’ court, show the PDC that you will support these events in big numbers, and Hearn’s attitude towards starting up a women’s tour could change.
With the uncertainty right now about when the amateur/semi-professional circuit can restart again, this is a massive opportunity for the ladies to play competitive darts, and for a decent prize fund. And, in a playing environment run by the PDC themselves, in a professional manner.
I don’t know what the logistics or the cost looks like, but right now the weekend of October 17-18 is clear of any other PDC tournaments. Why not test the waters and stream the events on YouTube? The PDC has a huge following on that platform, recently passing 180,000 subscribers, funnily enough.
Give the ladies that platform, see what the numbers are like, and then use that to attract sponsors for a potential women’s tour. Only time will tell whether this announcement was the start of something life-changing for the ladies’ game, but the ladies, for that weekend at least, have our undivided attention.