There’s an Elephant in the Room

The idea of separating the North American professional darts game from the non-professional game is not as easy as it seems. I could present many positive examples for why the creation of a separate professional game is a solid idea, but I am certain that this idea will not succeed in the near future for one specific reason. There’s a giant elephant in the room that nobody talks about.

Wikipedia sums up the meaning of an “Elephant in the Room” as, the obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It is also defined as, the idiomatic expression that applies to an obvious problem or risk that no one wants to discuss.

The idea of splitting out the professional game into its own separate organization makes a lot of sense to me. But the Elephant in the Room that nobody wants to discuss is….there are many top players who are not (yet) willing to give up the options and benefits that they get in the ADO system.

The ADO options and benefits that these top players fear that they would give up include:

  1. The opportunity to play in many events in a tournament weekend
  2. The opportunity to win free trips to major tournaments (i.e. ADO Nationals)
  3. The opportunity to win free trips overseas (i.e. Masters)
  4. The opportunity to play for their country in international amateur events (i.e. World Cup)

Segregating the professional game away from the amateur game threatens these things. I see this as being similar to what the early professional players faced when they split away from the BDO to form the World Darts Council (now known as the PDC).  When these brave players split away from the BDO, the BDO shut the door on them.  Some of them didn’t like this sacrifice and they returned back to the BDO.

I think that the situation is different with the ADO, but there is a chance that external forces (i.e. WDF/BDO) could influence the ADO to exclude any new professional player affiliations from certain international events (i.e. World Masters, World Cup)

In my opinion, the ADO (not-for-profit) should continue to focus on the grass-roots development of the amateur game and a new independent (for-profit) organization needs to emerge and focus solely on the professional side of the game.  But a new professional organization will never succeed as long as this elephant exists in the room.

And without a professional game, there will never be major sponsors that are willing to pump significant cash into the game, lucrative television rights, player superstars, or legions of young players with dreams of making it big in the game.


8 thoughts on “There’s an Elephant in the Room

  1. Good read. Watching what the MLD is doing will deffinately give people the platform to continue to play regular darts away from the ADO if needs be. The MLD also seem to be creating some good relationships and hopefully they will grow. Will the MLD North American Champs be the highest payout for a single event only open to North Americans at the moment?
    The PDC have been fortunate to have always had the support of Sky, and on top of that Unicorn are a huge support, recently putting money in for the Youth tournaments as well as the newly formed Scandinavian Tour. North America need a company like this to support a tour, someone probably needs to take a gamble and put their name out there. Cosmo have had some great publicity of here in the UK with Justin Pipe, and if they can get it to work would be a good option, if the PDC allowed.
    Lastly players need to realise the benefits that can come to North America if they support events. There is an option to increase the number of events to 8 by 2014, and im sure it could be more if players and fans really got behind the NAPT. Hopefully players such as Jeff Smith will have success in Europe an more will choose to follow. This in turn will hopefully bring a bigger tour such as the one being implemented across continental Europe now.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I’m excited that the PDC is still trying to create a North American professional tour. What remains to be seen is how many North Americans will attend these new events? What is the PDC’s definition of success for 2012? Will there be enough participation in 2012 to warrant continuing the series in 2013 and beyond?

      Since these events are limited to North American players only, perhaps these PDC sanctioned events will be different from North American PDC events in the past. Time will tell.

  2. Spot on Donny, been saying pretty much the same thing ever since I started playing darts and seeing the situation thru the eyes of an economist. I think currently the MLD is providing a stepping stone for the transition as they offer more legs for the buck, seeded events, and long format. This increases the probability of money going into the best shooters hand. OTOH MLD creates incentives for decent players with longer format and the chance to play better players. There certainly will be pains in a transition and the players who get hurt the most are the current crop of top shooters. But at the same time the quicker we get down the road of transition the quicker we get over those pains. The other thing is the top shooters are the ones who have to do it for themselves just like those who joined the WDC/PDC. Money is an important issue but without a true Pro status I don’t see big money coming to the game as your still basically giving money for people to compete recreationally. The sponsor money is much smaller for this and certainly not enough to back a Pro tour given the current structure of mixing Pros and amats.

    This leads me to the issue of gambling and TV in darts in USA. It is not going to happen here (at least in the next 10 years). The UK and USA are miles apart in how darts are looked at we don’t have the basic ingredients they had in that market to make darts the boon for tv viewing audience. Americans are not going to gamble on darts, they want to gamble on football, basketball, baseball. Sports played and dominated by Americans. Americans don’t want to watch non Americans dominate. Not even touching the issue of if a sport book would want to take bets on darts the market is way to thin in the sport. Look at the Olympic viewing figures, if an American doesn’t have a shot at gold they don’t tune in to watch that event for e.g.

    This may offend some and I certainly don’t mean to but I think it is a cold hard fact: The darting culture has been set in this country by the ADO format and those top shooters who have been playing for decades who grew up in the ADO. It is hard to change that and typically the way these things change is a wholesale sweep out of the old bringing in new faces and perspectives. I am not judging just stating what I have observed thru history. Hopefully we remember the history and learn from it as we go forward.

    • Yes, change is good, but in many instances, new is better. But if the players are not willing to support the new initiative, then it will be hard for that new initiative to grow. We got several new initiatives out there now, but will the players support them? If not, why not?

  3. I see a very glaring error in this Donnie Joe
    You are comparing Apples to Oranges when talking about the BDO and the ADO.
    Up until the early 90’s darts in the UK were run by the BDO. The leagues were owned by the BDO. The TV contracts were with the BDO. All darts in the UK were controlled by the BDO. The ADO does NOT run leagues in the USA. The ADO does not control darts in the USA. Therefore, no comparasion can be or should me made.
    When a couple of player managers in the UK (Dick Allix and Tommy Cox) approached the new SKY SPORTS Television people and agreed that Darts should be on Sky, Olly Croft refused to acknowlege that and insisted the Darts would remain on TV only with the BBC. This was the initial motives for the top players to leave the BDO and form their own organization. Use your imagination to ponder why Mr. Croft didn’t want leave the BBC.

    Additionally, the WDF tried to influence the ADO executives when the WDC was initially formed. THe American players who chose to participate in the newly formed WDC events were shunned by the WDF and the BDO and they still are. You must remember the ridiculous decision to not allow Stacy Bromberg to represent the US at the 2011 World Cup. What exactly did the ADO do to protect her. You probably don’t remember how Larry Butler was treated at the 1994 NAODT. I can say for sure that he was NOT embraced for his accomplisment.

    It also boggles my mind that hardly anyone ever acknowledges this most significant difference between darts in the UK and here in America. Everyone always talks about the geographical differences, the cost of travel etc. What no one ever talks about is GAMBLING!
    It is my opinion that the ability to place a bet on your favorite character in every dart event is a big reason why they can sell 8000 tickets to a Premier League Match.
    The long time sponsor of the World Championships is LADBROKES.

    So, get legal gambling on darts here in the US and it will become the go to sport. Just like poker did!
    Perhaps you should ask the “top players” if they would risk losing ADO benefits to play for real money in professionally organized events
    Sharon Butler

    • In paragraph #6, I said that the situation is different with the ADO. Perhaps I should have been more explicit for those who don’t know. I lived in England for 2 years and I played in many BDO sanctioned events. I’m well aware of the differences. There are indeed differences, but the context in which I make the comparisons are not apples and oranges.

      Your points about the treatment of Larry and Stacy for what they accomplished in PDC events is evidence and support for my assertion that being affliated with a professional organization may impact one’s ability to play in a WDF/BDO affiliated event (i.e. Masters, World Cup, etc.).

      In my opinion, when I hear people moan that the ADO needs to change (for the benefit of a relative minority), these are the people who don’t want to give up what the ADO has to offer. In my view, these people are against creating a new organization because that equates to leaving behind what the ADO has to offer (free trips, international play for your country, etc)? To me, these people are saying…Why not just force the ADO to change and then you get to keep what the ADO has to offer?

      Everybody knows how difficult and slow that road to change will be for the ADO. Perhaps if I was 20 years younger, I’d find this to be a great idea. But I’m not and it makes little sense to me that the hope of making the ADO create a professional side of the game, in a timeframe that is acceptable to me…is a better and faster proposition than supporting a new organization that already has a goal of delivering what I’m looking for. The professional game that I envision is a minority point of view. The ADO is not setup to successfully create the professional game for many reasons. And this is why I’m an advocate for having an independent (for profit) organization that is focused solely on the professional game.

      There are very few sports where both the professional and amateur sides of the game are run by a single organization. The professional side is a business side and should be run like a business….paid salaries with employees that are measured on their performance….rewarded for achievement…and shown the door for for underachievement. Experienced business professionals in charge of marketing, promotions, operations, and focused on sustaining a profitable and growing company with an understanding of its core product….its players.

      But with all of that said, I believe that there is a place for the ADO. There are many people who enjoy playing 12-14 events on the weekend, partying all weekend, and just having fun. They don’t want seeding. They don’t want fewer events. I think the ADO should continue to focus on this non-professional side of the game. Also, the non-professional, amateur model is suited for an a non-profit, volunteer based organization.

      Perhaps we’re saying (mostly) the same thing.

      I disagree that betting and gambling on darts will make the sport grow like poker. Grow a little bit? It’s plausable. Grow like poker? I doubt it. I’ll save those comments for another time. 🙂

  4. super sweet article dj. wouldn’t it be great? recreate the history in the UK? new pro tourney, but you’re right, something’s gotta give. I hope to see the change for the better, whatever it may be. great article.

    • Yes it would be great. I would be one of the first to cross the line and commit to a new world. But sadly, I think that fewer than half of the people moaning about change today, would join me.

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