Interviews

PDC and Hearn are taking the World Series into the unknown this weekend

china

Barry Hearn admits even he does not know how China is going to react to the inaugural Shanghai Darts Masters this weekend.

The two-day tournament starts tomorrow at the Pullman Hotel Shanghai South, with the first day seeing eight of the PDC’s top players take on four Chinese qualifiers and four invited players.

And ahead of the PDC holding an event in China for the first time in 12 years, the organisation’s chairman told Darts Weekly: “God knows what could happen. It could be anything or nothing you know.

“Within my business China is a big market. The snooker is huge in China so I get some leverage.

“I’ve been knocking on the door for three years and this is year one, so I’m not expecting it to be like New Zealand or Sydney.

“I’m expecting something quite quiet and I’m hoping we will encourage the darts associations in China to get better and put more resources behind it.”

With the introduction of China this year, 2016 will see six events held in the World Series, along with the finals weekend in Glasgow in November.

Tournaments in Dubai, New Zealand, Australia and Japan have all returned from last year, while China’s World Series debut is the first part of a much bigger plan for Hearn and the PDC.

“This is a long term plan,” Hearn said.  “Out of all the venues on the World Series this is the longest term plan.

“Darts in China is a 10-year plan. This is a tough market to break into, but we’ve got a foot in the door and that’s the best we can hope for at the moment.

“We’ve seen with the snooker in China that if it takes off, it takes off quickly”

“We’ve got a three-year deal with Shanghai but that doesn’t stop other events happening as well.

“I’d like to see a stronger involvement in the grassroots of the game in China from the Chinese sportspeople so that we build that structure.

“When you’ve got two billion people it’s a pretty big net to throw out and see if there’s anyone with outstanding ability.

“In the snooker I’ve said in the next three years I think half of the top 16 will be Chinese, so that’s a quantum shift in power.

“If darts takes off in China I’ll be really surprised if they didn’t produce some world class players, but they need an infrastructure. I think this is going to be quite a low key initial operation. But one thing I’ve said with the snooker in China is that if it takes off, it takes off quickly, so we shall see.”

Since the PDC launched the World Series in 2013 with events in Dubai and Australia, the tour has continued to grow in both popularity and demand.

And it is no surprise that Hearn has received many offers from across the world to bring the World Series to them.

“It’s exciting,” the PDC chairman said. “I’m inundated with countries saying ‘can we be a part of the World Series?’

“Even closer to home, Germany, Scandinavia are keen on a World Series event.

“The next big push we’re going to do is we’re going to go back to America.

“We’re going back in 2017 and will release all the details shortly.

“With the World Series events there isn’t a specific format. In Dubai it’s just the eight players, while others have qualifiers versus the eight.

“I think America will be like that. There’s slightly different promotional techniques you have to use in America. You have to give them some American winners.

“In America we’ll do a massive qualifier on site, so every player in North America gets a chance, and that will find the guys to compete in the event.”

The PDC calendar is already a very busy one and Hearn is mindful of how many more events he can introduce onto the World Series tour in future years.

“The top eight are earning great money obviously, but they have a responsibility to spread the game, which they are embracing and I’m thankful to them for that,” he said.

“But at the same time they can’t take their eye off the rankings.

“They’re only in the top eight because they are ranked in the top eight.

“There’s so many other tournaments so we’ve got to be a little bit careful of burning these players out.

“These boys get appearance money plus prize money, which is the sort of standard for this type of event, because you’re a long way from home.

“But my word they want to win. The competitive nature of Auckland last weekend was fantastic, the averages were unbelievable.

“I’m very happy with the way the World Series is going. I’m just conscious I don’t want to produce too many.

“So if I’ve gone from five to six this year, next year from six to seven, I’m getting towards capacity and then you start looking at moving it around a little bit.

“So Australia you look at, instead of Perth and Sydney, why not Melbourne and Brisbane? You try and keep it fresh.”

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