Sports Direct announced as sponsor of a World Trophy which has a lot riding on it

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Picture: David Gill

So after months of speculation and a late venue change, the third staging of the BDO World Trophy gets underway today.

It is hard not to underestimate just how important the next three days are going to be for the BDO.

With free to air broadcaster Dave showing 30 hours of live coverage from the Lakeside over the Bank Holiday weekend, the BDO will be putting its product out to a whole new audience.

The preparation for the event has been far from ideal. Switching the venue from Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse to the Lakeside Country Club just four weeks before its start date was always going to be a gamble.

As a result of the late venue change, tickets have only been on sale for the last three and a half weeks, and the sales have reflected this with even a reduced capacity at the Lakeside struggling to sell even half of the tickets.

Darts Weekly understands darts fans without tickets will be able to purchase admission on the day they visit, but for a venue which is usually sold out at double the capacity for nine days during the World Championship, it begs the question why have ticket sales for this weekend been so low.

The lateness of the venue change will of course be a factor, as will the scheduling of the event, with it being on a Bank Holiday weekend and many people will have already made plans.

Promoting tickets is something the BDO will need to address. It has really been left to the players and fans to try and help boost ticket sales with posts on social media, while the BDO has rarely promoted ticket sales on its social media platforms.

For an organisation which is being shown on a new television channel, a sold out Lakeside for the three days would have made a big difference in terms of how the event comes across to the broadcaster and the viewers.

The future of the BDO on free to air television in the UK could rest on how this weekend pans out.

If Dave are pleased with the product they are getting and the viewing figures are to their satisfaction, then it opens the door for more BDO tournaments to be shown on the channel, including the World Championship, which as it stands is still without television coverage for 2017.

In the final years of the BDO’s partnership with the BBC, it’s fair to say the coverage diminished, with ESPN and BT Sport taking on a big share of the sessions.

For this tournament at least the BDO are going to be getting full coverage. Although one 10-hour session each day is far too long, Dave are not going into this new partnership half-heartedly.

Every dart of the men’s and ladies draw will be shown live, offering many of the players in action coverage they seldom see during the year.

The £150,000 prize fund on offer this weekend is second only on the BDO circuit to the World Championship, but a contentious issue in the lead up to the event has been: where is the money coming from?

Sports Direct were announced as an event sponsor late last night, but it is hard to believe they will be stumping up the prize fund this late in the day.

It is a big weekend for the BDO, and after all the months of turmoil behind the scenes, they must see this as an opportunity to start to turn the corner.

Will the World Trophy be a success? For the BDO’s sake you have to hope this can be the spark of a real ‘New Era’.

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