With the success of James Wilson at Q-School 2022 it may be time to remind readers of the remarkable record of success of his management team;
MDA Promotions is very much the house that Matt built, or to be more specific
Matthew Dean Alan
Ward eliminating any question marks on how he chose the company name. What began life as a darts exhibition has blossomed into a highly successful business enterprise, responsible for managing a number of talented professional players. Matt Ward is certainly worth following on social media if you enjoy a good chuckle. However, don’t be completely fooled by his jester persona. For all the amusing Facebook videos, practical jokes and a necessity to check the correct spelling of his own middle name, Alan, for the avoidance of doubt, Ward is a very astute businessman. Think Jeremy Beadle meets Elon Musk and you won’t be far off.
Originally a plumber by trade, it was a chance discovery of a business card by the Leicester man which first opened the door to a career in darts. Explaining how it all began, Ward said:
“I still recall standing outside the Winder Gardens in Blackpool, queuing to get front row tickets for the World Matchplay. So as an avid fan, I consider myself very fortunate to be in the position I’m now in. “Shortly after being laid off from work in 2007, I was at a Premier League night where I spotted a business card advertising Adrian Lewis on tour. “Unemployed and looking for a new venture, I decided to take the plunge and organise my own event. So I rang the name on the card, Paul Booth and booked Adrian for an exhibition.
“Unfortunately, due to a complication Adrian was unavailable for the original date but that transpired to be an unexpected twist of good fortune. “Between myself and Paul, we rescheduled the event, added Raymond van Barneveld to the bill and found a larger venue: “Barney was the reigning PDC World Champion so already a huge draw but in the week leading up to my event, he also won the UK Open – which helped ticket sales. Even snooker legend and my mate Mark Selby, who loves his darts, came along.
“Due to popular demand, I rehired the venue the following year and booked James Wade and Eric Bristow. Thankfully that sold out too. “… at the time, only Leeds promoter Paul Wilson was staging huge eight-man events so decided to give that a crack. I booked the Hermitage Leisure Centre in the nearby town of Coalville for 27th March 2009 and loaded the exhibition with star names. “Lining up we had Peter Manley, James Wade, Wayne Mardle, Adrian Lewis, John Part, Gary Anderson, Mark Webster, and Bob Anderson all competing for a combined prize pot of £6500. The gamble thankfully paid off and it was another fantastic night.”
A couple of years on and with a few successful events under his belt, Ward decided to dip his toe into another pond – sponsoring professional players. He said: “I noticed a post on Justin Pipe’s Facebook page looking for someone to finance him on the circuit. I decided to get in contact offering my services and he duly accepted. “As luck would have it, Justin then went on a huge winning streak that year claiming four floor titles and a European event victory. Eventually he finished the season top of the PDC Pro Tour Order of Merit.”
Buoyed by Pipe’s success, Ward added: “I decided to get involved with more players and began chatting with Dean Winstanley who came on board. When Stuart Kellett tweeted that he was looking for a sponsor, I stepped in and signed him up too.
“One of my fondest early memories in management was the 2012 World Matchplay. We all had a brilliant week in Blackpool and some great results – Pipe reached the quarter finals and Dean beat Gary Anderson. “It was during that tournament I first enquired about Daryl [Gurney]. Back then he was still in the BDO but I knew he had enormous potential. That year he won the England Masters, Northern Ireland Open and the Tom Kirby Memorial Trophy – the latter qualifying him for the 2013 PDC World Championship preliminary round, so I signed him up as my fourth player.
“Then around 2016 his career really began to take off but I was always confident Daryl would be an amazing player and win titles.” MDA Promotions now boasts six players competing on the professional PDC tour as well as a number of other excellent prospects. But despite building a solid stable of talent, Ward insists the word ‘team’ is not a reference he likes. Shaking his head, he said: “The players are not in this together. It’s an individual sport and a singles game – they are all out to win for themselves.
Fortunately, it’s yet to happen but I would hate it if two clashed I just love to be involved in the journey, I want to feel and live it with the players – bask in every victory and even despair in each loss The players are not in this together. It’s an individual sport and a singles game – they are all out to win for themselves. “ “ “ “ at big television event. Despite being guaranteed the winner, it also means I’m certain to have the loser.
“As a manager all I can do is give my lads as much support, advice and encouragement as possible. The playing aspect is down to them – I can hardly drive over to their houses and check they are putting the hours in on the practice board. That is their responsibility. “I’m not a magician either, I can’t wave a wand and instantly make a player perform better. But what I do is offer a solid platform, including financial stability so they feel less pressured. If you work hard in life you will get your rewards. To date, the majority of Ward’s financial rewards in the game have come from Daryl Gurney’s success on the oche. With two major PDC titles to his name and almost £1.5m in career earnings so far, the Northern Irishman has been responsible for the pair prospering. But right from the start, Ward ensured Gurney invested his winnings wisely and built a nest egg for his family. He adds: “Make no mistake about it, Daryl is the reason I am financially secure. My job is to advise and that’s the reason most of his winnings are tied up in property. Generally speaking, it’s the only thing that is almost guaranteed to increase in value over time.
“Despite being extremely shrewd when it comes to money, Daryl understands the need to secure what he earns from the game for the future. The rest of the players look after their own money but I offer them financial advice. “A lot of the money I’ve made from darts is also tied up in property. It’s sad to see players who have enjoyed years of success in the game, drag themselves through Q-School in an attempt to win back their tour card because they’re skint.
“Initially, when I sponsored Justin back in 2011, it was all about the money but now I’m in it to win the World Championship. Once that happens, I think I’ll retire and would advise any of my players to do the same. “For example, Daryl is more than good enough to win the Worlds but I don’t believe he has the motivation to reclaim it. So if he became champ, I would say grab the cheque for £500,000 and walk away into the sunset. Take retirement, enjoy spending time with the family and tinkering with antique cars.
“I just love to be involved in the journey, I want to feel and live it with the players – bask in every victory and even despair in each loss. In 2019, I trudged around Blackpool alone in the pouring rain for two hours after Rob Cross beat Daryl in the semi-final of the World Matchplay – that’s how much it hurts. At the end of the day, I feel the pain of defeat as much as my players do.
“Earlier this year, I sadly lost my Grandad and Mum within the space of just a few months. So for me, creating those special memories are everything and I am grateful for them. Money is important but the things it can’t buy are worth more.” As a proud father to Jack, Matt understands the importance of embracing all that we often take for granted.
Poetically, he added: “Life is all about making great memories”
Article originally appears in Darts World Magazine (Issue 575)
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