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Phill Weighs in on PDC Play Off Addition

by Phill Catterick:

THE PDC has announced that a third-fourth placed play-off will be introduced for the 2010 ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship.

The final will be held on January the 3rd, and the aforementioned match will be the `sequel` to the main event-presumably to make the evening much longer and to provide viewers and visitors to more than just one match.

At least that’s the view of the chairman Barry Hearne who said:
“The World Darts Championship is already the sport’s biggest ever event but the third-fourth place play-off will add even further to the spectacle at Alexandra Palace.

“After 12 days of play across Christmas and New Year, the tournament will now culminate with these two high profile fixtures – the final and the third-fourth place play-off on January 3.

“Our aim is to give fans the best possible value for their money at all PDC tournaments and creating an experience they will never forget, and this certainly does that.

“For the stars involved it will also be a huge occasion, especially so as the game could also be the deciding factor for players battling for a Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts place.”

Like many decisions in the sporting world nowadays, it seems that this decision is based purely on financial implications rather than sporting ones.

Third place play-offs are present in other sport’s major competitions and unfortunately they don’t tend to create much hype as they’re occasions which don’t matter a great deal, and no player or team will see much of a difference between finishing third or coming in fourth.

Obviously the money is the incentive in this case, but I fear to fans this match won’t matter a great deal and the disappointment of going out of the competition will make the match less entertaining.

However, as the pressure will be off the players, perhaps fans will be treated to an `exhibition` sort of match which is what many will want to see.

The World Darts Championship has had a third-fourth placed play-off before, with the match being a regular occasion between 1994 and 1998. Of course the money in the game has since changed and so perhaps the encounter will be perceived as more important.

I myself am slightly baffled as to why the match has been put in place when it isn’t really needed. I agree that fans should be treated to as much Darts as possible, but I’m unsure as to whether a play-off match is the best way to do this.

Apart from the money, I don’t think players would have any real incentive to take to the stage again having been eliminated from the competition just 24 hours earlier, and think the idea, although creative, lacks any serious thought.

Unless a league place is up for grabs, (which is highly unlikely as potential competitors should have claimed enough ranking points throughout the year to earn a place rather than rely on a play-off place!) then I personally believe the match is meaningless, and the only way the PDC can gain anything from it is to charge people more money for their tickets, and bump up the prize money.

Sport nowadays is all about commercialisation and how much money can be gained from what is on offer, and I totally understand the decision of the PDC.

But from a personal point of view I can’t see what it will add to the show that isn’t there already, and there is a real possibility that a play-off match could overshadow the final if the match is much better in terms of quality.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong and that the match spices up the show more so than ever, and the only way we’ll find out is to view it for ourselves on January the 3rd next year. If it succeeds, then it will almost certainly be a regular occurrence on finals night for the foreseeable future, but if not then maybe this could be the last time we see such a match in the PDC finals.

It is admittedly an interesting idea, and if it turns out to be a success, then perhaps the BDO will follow suit and run a similar match themselves in their own organization in 2011, that is unless they haven’t already decided to run their own play-off match at the Lakeside for the 2010 championships.

Whatever your opinions are, it does signal a clear intent by Barry Hearne and the PDC that they want the sport to continue moving forwards and continue making positive headlines, and I’m sure I speak on behalf on all Darts fans when I say I hope it doesn’t turn into a meaningless encounter between two downbeat players.

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