Every dart player knows the feeling. You can’t quite remember when you bought or were given your current board. But you know that you have rotated so often that you can no longer see one treble that looks attractive. Like it or not, time for a new board.
It seems to us that the PDC found themselves in a similar place. They had had their board (Unicorn) for more than a quarter of a century, decent service by any standard, but now time for a change had finally come. Was there a newer and better alternative out there?
The original partnership between Unicorn and the PDC is not to be underestimated in any way. It has served the PDC very well and at times helped them to make major progress, such as the tier tours, that otherwise may have been very difficult to get up and running. But, it has seemed to us at The Boardroom that the PDC’s dynamism, modernism, and determination to maintain the momentum, that they have built in over recent years, did not match the mood music and actions of their long-time partner.
Unicorn were reigning in their elite darts project. The player’s stable was seeming to stand still or be slimmed down and the innovation and creativity, that was once part and parcel of the brand, was less apparent. All this was confirmed with their announcement last week that would be stepping back from the PDC and concentrating more on what might be termed amateur or ‘grassroots darts’.
Around a dozen years ago a member of the Boardroom team was discussing the future of darts with a senior figure in Winmau. Our man predicted that the BDO would be dead in a decade and that Winmau, and its related brands, should avoid being dragged down with it.
The Winmau man explained why he did not agree (he was wrong, lol) but also how they had positioned their products and brand in order to cater to players needs and to ensure that regardless of what type of darts they watched, or competed in, their board at home or the one in their local league was a Winmau one ( in this area he was spectacularly correct).
It is this dedication to improvement and to the development of the game of darts, at all levels, that has put Winmau in a unique position to partner with the PDC now and we would bet for the long-term future.
The World is changing and how people play and watch darts is changing along with it. Imagine being Eddie Hearn with the decades of new media knowledge learned from boxing and far less of the historic ties and therefore loyalties that father Barry obviously felt.
Here you are newly in charge of a superb enterprise, popular and growing across the globe with barely a negative word spoken about it. Except for one thing, the actual item the game is played on! Week after week, month after month, the basic ingredient, that without which you cannot play, is criticized by TV companies, fans, and those who have to play on it.
World Champions and other top players take to social media to excoriate it, fans and amateur players join the conversation and thus it extends to press conferences and becomes a constant embarrassment and irritant to an organisation that prides itself on building an elite professional product for players, spectators, venues and media providers. Something was always going to give!
It is pretty clear you are going to need a top-level partner from the darts industry, they are going to have to be moving forward, dynamic and adaptable to changes and the modern media and sports world.
They also need to be able to manufacture a hugely reliable product, namely a dartboard, that will not suffer from embarrassing flaws in public and that will add to rather than detract from the experience of players and the impression given to watchers of all types.
Lastly, you’re going to want a partner who is experienced in both delivering manufactured products at scale and quality and supporting and promoting darts projects across the spectrum.
Not only have Winmau been shipping huge numbers of their, ‘Blade’ range of, boards across the globe and never been criticised but they have supported Women’s darts, Disability ( or Pardarts) Darts, The Junior Darts Corporation, Team 360 as well as the nascent Amateur darts associations MAD, ADC and even the WDF’s long-promised Lakeside revival.
Perhaps this is already being reflected in the decision to allow PDC Tour Card Holders to play this year’s Lakeside Championship if already qualified?
It is this bridging of the gaps and divides, that have existed within darts for almost thirty years, that may be an additional benefit from the partnership, between the PDC and Winmau announced today.
We shall take a closer look at it in Part II.
Lead Images: Winmau/PDC
Darts World Magazine (Issue 577) and 2022 bundle offers
Subscribe or purchase your copy