Darts next generation
The PDC have crowned three Youth World Champions since 2011; Arron Monk, James Hubbard, and Michael Smith. Talented players all three, with the latter two in particular capable of making the grade as bona-fide stars in the PDC in years to come. Red Dragon young-gun Jamie Lewis is another who has made eye-catching progress so far.
The BDO is once again proving fertile ground for youngsters to learn their trade and The Netherlands in particular has thrown up several top quality youngsters in Winmau World Youth Masters: Jimmy Hendricks and Jeffrey de Zwaan. Whilst reigning Winmau World Master Stephen Bunting- himself a former World Youth Master seems capable of mixing in the upper-echelons of the PDC should he choose to cross darts’ great divide.
Scott Waites is another BDO star that ruffled PDC feathers when he walked away with a cool 100k cheque for winning the Grand Slam of Darts and he is another capable of making waves should he ply his trade elsewhere.
Of those currently in the PDC, Lewis, van Gerwen, and Wade seem the men most likely to take the lion’s share of the £6m prize-money that the PDC currently has on offer. The likes of Chisnall, Pipe, Hamilton, and Huybrechts may well pick up a major pot before they have finished their careers as well. Others will make a steady living from the game, but whom, if anyone will be the next superstar? Where will they come from? The answer appears to be less than clear.
To its credit, the PDC launched a Youth tour in 2010 for players aged 14-21, which has since been extended to those aged 25. From 2014 a revamped Youth Tour will be reintroduced, which will be complimented by a Challenge tour for those who do not win PDC tour cards; the PDC’s own darting version of The Football League to complement its existing elite level competition.
The hope is clearly that the cheaper costs and less competitive atmosphere will provide a less ruthless introduction to the shark-infested PDC waters and that potential new stars will be given more time to blossom, but will it help create any new superstars?
The fact remains that is difficult to get a start in the world of professional darts. Sponsors are hard to come by and the costs of regular travel remain prohibitive. The majority of tournament action remains UK-based and anyone from overseas would need to relocate; this then brings further costs into play, visas also become an issue and several dart players have already seen their applications turned down by the UK authorities.
The soft-tip game; now spreading through parts of Asia seems the best hope of throwing up some new stars, but the nuances of the game remain different to its steel-tip cousin and as yet no one seems set to crossover to the big time in the PDC.