Should The PDC Have A 'Championship' Alongside The Premier League?

Published on 7 February 2024 at 20:00

After Stephen Bunting's monumental win in the Masters in Milton Keynes this past weekend, where he beat four established stars in Luke Humphries, Peter Wright, Nathan Aspinall and Michael Van Gerwen en-route to glory, the 38-year-old's success should have been rewarded with a spot in the 2024 Premier League. However, due to a change in the scheduling and the allocation of spots to 'favourites' over pedigree and performance, is there no better time than now to reward some of the sport's fringe elite players with a competition of their own?



In 2021, Jonny Clayton won the Masters, securing his spot in the Premier League in the midst of his acclaimed 'Year of the Ferret', and then went on to win the entire event! In 2022, Joe Cullen won the Masters in a tense final with Dave Chisnall, before almost pulling off one of the greatest upsets in recent memory in the Premier League final against MVG. And just last year, the less-fancied Chris Dobey won his maiden major at the Masters, before cementing his place as one of the sport's most entertaining, dangerous players with a solid debut campaign in the Premier League. As the 2024 Masters Champion, Stephen Bunting won't be afforded such an opportunity to impress like his recent predecessors have. 


Instead, the place that perhaps should have been gifted has instead been gifted to Peter Wright, who failed to win a single 'night' in last year's Premier League, and Luke Littler, who despite his monstrous run to the final of this year's World Championship, could not even qualify for the Masters due to his seeding and has been instilled into the competition to attract even more mainstream attention to the game, harming the opportunities for players like Bunting, Ross Smith, Chris Dobey and Damon Heta  to prove themselves on a big televised stage despite their immensely consistent performances in the previous year's majors and on the tour circuit.  


So what can, and perhaps should, these fringe players do?


The PDC itself is an organisation born out of the top players wanting the best for themselves and the sport as a whole, moving on from the boom period in the 1980s and allowing the breakout players the opportunity to prosper and grow darts into the sporting juggernaut that we recognise the PDC to be nowadays. 


Whilst something as radical as a breakaway from the organisation shouldn't be approached, the fringe players locked out of the Premier League, Masters tour events and certain majors due to the insurmountable PDC ranking and event allocation systems could advocate to form their own competitions and help bring new eyes to the darts scene outside of the usual hotbeds. How about a PDC Championship/ 'Premier League 2'?


Read more: Michael Smith Claims Night One Premier League Glory In Cardiff, Beating Van Gerwen, Littler and Price


A prospective field, based on seeding and recent success could field:

  • Danny Noppert (World No.7, Dutch No.2) 
  • Jonny Clayton (World No.9, 4 x Major Winner, Reigning World Cup Holder)
  • Dave Chisnall (PDC Pro Tour Player of the Year)
  • Damon Heta (World No.11, 2022 World Cup Winner)
  • Joe Cullen (2022 Masters Champion, Former PL Runner Up) 
  • Chris Dobey (2023 Masters Champion, Won opening night in 2023 PL)  
  • Stephen Bunting (2024 Masters Champion, former BDO World Champion)
  • Ross Smith (World No.17, 2022 European Champion) 


And that's discounting the likes of James Wade, a former PL winner and the man with the third most majors of all time, whose presence would likely fetch far more interest than some of the names guaranteed to feature prominently in PDC events in 2024 and beyond.  


The presence of a new touring PDC tournament that goes to the likes of the North East, Edinburgh, Yorkshire for more than just one off nights in the main Premier League would be a brilliant way to bring some of the most entertaining players in darts some much needed mainstream attention that is often only afforded to the likes of Luke Littler, Michael Van Gerwen, and legends like Raymond Van Barneveld. 


As of writing, the vast majority of locations for the PDC majors are locked in: Milton Keynes held the Masters, Minehead hosts both the UK Open and PC Finals, Frankfurt finds itself the host of the World Cup, the World Matchplay is in Blackpool, the World Series is in Amsterdam, the European Championship is in Dortmund, the Grand Slam will be in Wolverhampton, and then of course the World Championship in London: establishing new major events worth attending would be a monumental step forward for players to rank higher in the order of merit and attract new fans not only to themselves, but to darts itself. 


Darts is entering a new interesting period: more and more eyes are watching the product and engaging online about it, the PDC and its players would be foolish to try and not capitalise on it without alienating the talent outside the very reserved elite. 


By Jaspar Shepherdson

(@jasparshepmedia on X/Twitter and Instagram)


Image Credit: Sandro Halank On Wikipedia



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