Online gambling operator Unibet has agreed a three-year deal with the PDC to become the new title sponsor of the Premier League from 2018.
Taking over from previous sponsors Betway, who held the sponsorship for four years from 2014 to 2017, Unibet, one of the largest gambling brands across Europe and Australia, will be the title sponsor from next year.
To mark the start of the partnership that runs through to 2020, the bookmaker worked in secret with PDC chairman Barry Hearn to surprise some of the biggest names in the sport in a hidden camera style video.
Taking a wry look at the lengths some brands go to get their name up in lights, the video features an actor posing as a Unibet marketing executive alongside Hearn.
The duo then set out to convince reigning Premier League champion Michael van Gerwen and world number three Peter Wright to take on various outlandish and ridiculous brand initiatives, from Unibet logo head tattoos to brand-themed dances, nothing is left on the table.
The Unibet Premier League will be the 13th sponsored darts event by the company since its initial partnership of the Unibet Masters back in 2014.
Since then Unibet has become the partner of the European Championship, World Grand Prix, Champions League of Darts as well as the World Series of Darts Finals and Melbourne Darts Masters.
PDC chairman Hearn said: “We’re delighted that Unibet have furthered their association with us in their sponsorship of the Premier League for the next three years.
“The Unibet Premier League will be bigger than ever in 2018, with our success in the UK, Ireland and more recently in the Netherlands leading to the introduction of a league night in Berlin next year, and it promises to be a special tournament.
“The Premier League’s growth since 2005 has been a phenomenon in British sport and it’s another boost that Unibet were so keen to add this prestigious event to their growing darts sponsorship portfolio.”
James Wade kept his chances of qualifying for the Unibet European Championship alive after booking his place in the HappyBet European Darts Trophy – the last event on this year’s European Tour – last night.
The world number 10 has played in all nine European Championships to be held so far, but heading into last night’s UK Qualifier for the 12th European Tour event he found himself outside of the top 32 qualifying places.
But Wade, a guest on this week’s Weekly Dartscast podcast, squeezed through two deciding legs to secure his spot in Gottingen, as he headlined a list of 18 qualifiers at the end of play in Dublin.
Wade battled past Wayne Jones, this year’s Unicorn Challenge Tour Order of Merit winner, with a 6-5 victory in his opener, and then edged out South Africa’s Devon Petersen by the same scoreline in the final round.
Former European Championship winner Adrian Lewis, who missed the event last year, will also miss out on playing in Hasselt for a second year running after losing in the UK Qualifier last night.
The world number five, who beat Simon Whitlock 11-6 in the 2013 final, lost 6-2 to Chris Quantock in the first round which means he can no longer qualify for the European Championship, joining fellow former world champions Gary Anderson, Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld in being out of the field in Hasselt.
HappyBet European Darts Trophy UK Qualifier
Warrick Scheffer 6-4 Darren Johnson
Terry Temple 6-4 Aden Kirk
Richie Burnett 6-2 Tony Newell
Peter Jacques 6-4 Harry Robinson
Paul Nicholson 6-2 Robert Owen
Lee Bryant 6-2 Richie Corner
Craig Gilchrist 6-4 Brendan Dolan
John Norman Jnr 6-2 Wes Newton
Steve Beaton 6-1 Ryan Meikle
Andy Boulton 6-3 Dean Forde
Keegan Brown 6-4 Kyle Anderson
William O’Connor 6-5 Jamie Bain
Darren Webster 6-2 Andy Hamilton
Mick Todd 6-4 Brian Woods
Stephen Bunting 6-3 Peter Hudson
Callum Loose 6-2 Joe Murnan
Luke Woodhouse 6-4 John Henderson
Jonathan Worsley 6-5 Ross Twell
James Wade 6-5 Wayne Jones
Devon Petersen 6-4 Callan Rydz
Chris Quantock 6-2 Adrian Lewis
Mick McGowan 6-3 Steve Hine
Steve West 6-0 David Pallett
Diogo Portela 6-2 Jim Walker
Justin Pipe 6-4 Matthew Dennant
Jamie Caven 6-2 Mickey Mansell
Robert Thornton 6-2 Stephen Burton
Ryan Searle 6-2 John Part
Richard North 6-0 Ritchie Edhouse
Ricky Evans 6-4 Darren Johnson
Chris Dobey 6-3 Paul Harvey
Terry Temple 6-4 Ted Evetts
James Wilson 6-1 Kirk Shepherd
Richie Burnett 6-3 Mark Walsh
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Scott Taylor
Peter Jacques 6-3 Matt Clark
John Bowles 6-3 Mark Webster
Andrew Gilding 6-5 Paul Nicholson
Kevin Painter 6-5 Ryan Palmer
Steve Lennon 6-1 Lee Bryant
James Richardson 6-2 Simon Stevenson
Josh Payne 6-3 Craig Gilchrist
Jamie Lewis 6-2 Andy Jenkins
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 John Norman Jnr
Andy Boulton 6-4 Steve Beaton
Keegan Brown 6-3 William O’Connor
Mick Todd 6-5 Darren Webster
Stephen Bunting 6-1 Callum Loose
Jonathan Worlsey 6-3 Luke Woodhouse
James Wade 6-5 Devon Petersen
Chris Quantock 6-2 Mick McGowan
Steve West 6-4 Diogo Portela
Jamie Caven 6-4 Justin Pipe
Robert Thornton 6-2 Ryan Searle
Ricky Evans 6-4 Richard North
Chris Dobey 6-1 Terry Temple
James Wilson 6-1 Richie Burnett
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Peter Jacques
John Bowles 6-4 Andrew Gilding
Kevin Painter 6-4 Steve Lennon
James Richardson 6-4 Josh Payne
Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Jamie Lewis
The Weekly Dartscast is back this week with special guest James Wade. Here’s a rundown of what’s on the show:
Co-hosts Alex Moss and Burton DeWitt recap Mensur Suljovic’s maiden television title, as well as Peter Wright’s historic 10th title of the season.
The team also discuss big weekends for Kim Huybrechts, Gerwyn Price and Ron Meulenkamp, before giving their preview and predictions for the World Grand Prix.
The team are joined by two-time World Grand Prix winner James Wade, who discusses his first break from the game in years, as well as his expectations heading into the back end of 2017.
Peter Wright claims he has ‘joined the elite’ after becoming only the fourth player in history to win ten PDC tournaments in a season at the weekend.
The world number three pipped Kim Huybrechts 6-5 in the final of the HappyBet International Darts Open, in Riesa on Sunday, to reach double figures for tournament wins in 2017.
Wright follows in the footsteps of Phil Taylor, John Part and Michael van Gerwen to have reached the significant milestone, with his trophy haul this season including the UK Open, his maiden televised title, five European Tour titles and four floor titles.
“I’ve joined the elite,” Wright said after beating Huybrechts. “I’m only the fourth player to actually win 10 tournaments in a year.
“Obviously there’s Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and John Part, and now me!”
What a difference a week can make. The previous Sunday, Wright was seen jokingly throwing his darts to the floor of the Motorpoint Arena stage after losing 10-9 to world number two Gary Anderson in the Unibet Champions League of Darts – a defeat compounded by Wright missing eight match darts to knock out his fellow Scot in what was effectively a quarter-final.
“Obviously I’ve been struggling in the last three months,” the 47-year-old said, before going on to heap praise on Huybrechts, who had enjoyed a run to his first final in over a year.
“Kim Huybrechts is coming back to form, watch out for him in the next couple of weeks. Watch out for him in the Grand Prix in Ireland, he’s going to be dangerous.”
Picture: PDC Europe
In the final part of this three-part series, I look at four players who have played in the Premier League before, but have been infrequent participants recently. I make a case for them getting a return to the Premier League in 2018, as well as a case against.
The Case For
Michael Smith may have deserved a spot in the Premier League in 2016, but he never seemed ready for the week-in, week-out gruel of the competition. He’s bounced back, however, in 2017, winning a European Tour title and reaching two other Pro Tour finals. He’s reached 15 quarter-finals or better on the Pro Tour in 2017, in addition to the last 16 in the UK Open. And he should be in the top 10 of the world by the end of the year, despite having a poor 2016 on his ranking. It’s been a Premier League season to date.
The Case Against
But what has he done on television? He went out first round of the World Matchplay to an out-of-form Steve West, and he followed that up without a victory over a tour card holder in the three World Series events in New Zealand and Australia. As he said when he was on the Weekly Dartscast, all that matters for Premier League is your TV form, and so far he hasn’t shown it in 2017. If the Premier League was based on European Tour, he’d be a lock. But it’s not, and he has a lot of work still to do.
The Case For
Klaasen was never given a fair shake in 2017. He should have gotten an invite in 2016, but was snubbed. Instead, he was called into action whilst injured and never got off the ground. Since having surgery in May, his form has slowly improved, and he’s made a good account of himself on then European Tour this past month. Granted, he needs to have a few months where he shows he’s back to where he was before his wrist injury, but fairness dictates he gets another shot.
The Case Against:
Everything I just said, but in reverse. Yes, Klaasen got a raw shake of the dice, but those are the breaks, and there are no free passes in darts until you’ve established yourself as consistently one of the faces of the game. Klaasen, all due respect, hasn’t yet. And while he has injury to blame for a subpar Premier League campaign, all that is on paper is an excuse. He has struggled mightily at times this year and has looked eons away from someone who merits a Premier League invite.
The Case For
Okay, he didn’t get a win in the Premier League, but he played very well for most of the campaign, despite competing whilst his mother was terminally ill. He made it to the quarter-final of the UK Open, and has consistently made it deep into tournaments both on the floor and the Euro Tour. I think Huybrechts was given a raw deal heading into the Premier League this year, with many questioning his inclusion. But he showed he belonged over the eight weeks he participated. And everything considered, it would be harsh to drop him so quickly.
The Case Against
Before reaching the final in Riesa this past weekend, in 30 matches on stage since the World Championship, Kim Huybrechts had won just eight times, including losses to Pete Hudson, Jan Dekker, Christian Kist, and James Wilson. In the 19 matches on stage since the end of the Premier League, before last weekend, he averaged under 93 nine times, against just one average over the ton. Before Riesa he had lost his last five matches on stage, and hadn’t beaten anyone ranked higher than 28 in any competition since mid-May. Nothing he’s done the last six months before Riesa rings Premier League. It barely even rings Championship, if not League One.
The Case For
What a run that was for Whitlock at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, winning five Pro Tour titles in the space of four months. And right in the middle of that, he missed a dart at double 15 to knock Michael van Gerwen out of the European Championship, the only time anyone came close to the world number one in a ranking major in 2016. Okay, he hasn’t gone on and made a deep, deep TV run like he used to do with regularity, but there’s only so many times you can run into Michael van Gerwen before the draw comes kind to you. He’s shown he’s yet again an elite player.
The Case Against
“He’s shown again he’s an elite player.” No, he hasn’t. He’s shown he has the game to be an elite player, but he hasn’t followed up on it. Since the last of those five Pro Tour titles in March, Whitlock has failed to cash at eight Pro Tour events, while reaching the quarter-final or better just five times. He only won one match against the seeded players from three World Series events last month, and outside the UK Open—where he was off TV most of the way—still hasn’t had a real sustained televised run in a few years. While there’s little doubt Whitlock will make a good showing of himself if he is selected, he has to earn it first. It’s hard to say he has.
Brazil’s Diogo Portela is the sixth player to have qualified for the 2018 William Hill World Darts Championship.
Portela won the South & Central American Qualifier in Palmas, Brazil on Saturday to earn himself a debut at the Alexandra Palace at the end of the year.
The UK-based Brazilian joins America’s Willard Bruguier, New Zealand’s Cody Harris, Australia’s Gordon Mathers, Finland’s Kim Viljanen and Japan’s Seigo Asada as the six players to qualify so far as international qualifiers.
The 72-player field for the Alexandra Palace event will be made up of the top 32 players on the PDC Order of Merit, the next top 16 players on the Pro Tour Order of Merit and 24 players from international qualifiers and the PDPA Qualifier.
2018 William Hill World Darts Championship (Qualified players so far)
Willard Bruguier (North American Darts Championship winner)
Cody Harris (DartsPlayers New Zealand Qualifier)
Gordon Mathers (DPA Pro Tour #1)
Kim Viljanen (PDCNB Order of Merit #1)
Seigo Asada (PDJ Qualifier)
Diogo Portela (South & Central American Qualifier)
Diogo Portela will make his debut in the William Hill World Darts Championship at the end of the year after winning the South & Central American Qualifier in Brazil on Saturday.
The UK-based Brazilian, who features in the latest issue of the Love The Darts magazine, defeated his World Cup partner Alexandra Sattin 6-1 in the final to book his place at the Alexandra Palace in December.
The field included players from Argentina, Chile, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana, but it was the Brazilian duo who made it through to the final in Palmas at the weekend.
Portela dropped just four legs in the entire tournament, following up whitewash wins over Roberto Wenz and Lallchand Rambharose with a 6-3 victory against former World Championship qualifier Sudesh Fitzgerald in the semi-finals.
Sattin’s route to the final began with a 6-1 win over Fabio Porto in the first round, before the Brazilian got past Luis Miguel (6-4) and Bruno Holfman 6-2 and then Troy Bhujhawan in the last four.
Peter Wright’s magical 2017 continued on Sunday night at the HappyBet International Darts Open in Riesa, as he lifted his tenth title of 2017.
After a slow start to the weekend, the world number three got better in every match, culminating in a 6-5 win over Kim Huybrechts in the final.
Huybrechts got the early jump on Wright, breaking throw twice in the first three legs, as he raced to a 4-2 lead.
But Wright came back, taking out a 101 against the darts in leg eight to level at 4-4.
Both players held to send the match into a decider, but Wright—who had the darts in the decider—kicked off with consecutive 140s, before taking out a 116 to complete a 12-darter and claim a fifth European Tour title of 2017.
Earlier, Wright started off the final session with a 6-4 win over Jelle Klaasen.
Klaasen got the first break in leg three, taking out double 10 after Wright missed three at double. But Wright then wheeled off three legs in a row to take the lead at 4-2.
Klaasen bounced back, winning the next two legs in 12 and 15 darts. But missed doubles did Klaasen in in the end, as he missed 14 in the match, including five in the final leg.
In the semi-finals, Wright defeated the last unseeded player, Ron Meulenkamp, 6-3, despite the Dutch left-hander averaging nearly 106.
Meulenkamp struggled to get going, only managing a dart at bull from six visits on his throw in the second leg, as Wright eased to a 3-0 lead.
But the quality of both players picked up drastically as the match wore on, highlighted by a 167 out from Meulenkamp for a 12-dart hold to stay alive in the eighth leg.
Meulenkamp had a chance to pinch another leg back in the ninth, but he missed double 13 for a second consecutive 12-dart leg. Wright then hit double four to complete the victory. Wright averaged over 103 and hit 50 percent of his doubles.
Huybrechts, who reached his first Euro Tour final since this event last year, had near perfect timing throughout the entire weekend.
In his first match of the evening, he reached his first Euro Tour semi-final in almost exactly a year, as he beat Gerwyn Price 6-4.
After a pair of holds, Huybrechts missed two darts to break, but Price followed suit, giving Huybrechts a reprieve. Huybrechts held his nerve, taking out double two to move into the lead for the first time at 2-1.
Huybrechts consolidated the break, then earned another by taking out 100 with two tops.
But Price fought back, landing his second 112 out in as many matches after Huybrechts missed double 13 for a 119. Price then threw in a regulation 14-dart hold to trim the deficit to 4-3.
Price had a chance to level in the next leg, but he missed a dart each at tops, double ten, and double five. Huybrechts cleaned up on double 16, and that would be the last opportunity Price had.
In the semi-finals, Huybrechts marched into a 3-0 lead over Joe Cullen before the Yorkshireman nearly had the first nine-dart leg on the Euro Tour in over four years.
Cullen left 141 after six darts, and then hit the treble 20 and treble 15. However, his dart at double 18 fell just inside.
But Cullen would only get sniffs the rest of the way, having the odd chance at bull for a 122 and two darts at double 11 for a 79 out in the final leg. Huybrechts cleaned up nearly every chance he had, as he won 6-2.
In the other quarter-finals, Meulenkamp ended the dream of the Nordic & Baltic qualifier, Dennis Nilsson, 6-2.
Meulenkamp broke in the first leg, but Nilsson immediately leveled, throwing in his best leg of the tournament, a 12-dart break that included a pair of maximums. Nilsson then cleaned up double four for the lead at 2-1.
However, it was one-way traffic the rest of the way. Nilsson struggled to get going, and never even had a visit where he attempted an outshot the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Meulenkamp raised his level, throwing in four 180s in the last three legs, and five for the match. Meulenkamp finished with a 99.75 average and 60 per cent on his doubles.
And in the final quarter-final, Cullen continued his hot run, as he beat Simon Whitlock 6-3.
Cullen struggled to get a look early in the match, as Whitlock eased into a 2-1 lead, but consecutive legs of 14, 13, and 13 darts turned the tide in Cullen’s favour.
The two exchanged the next two legs, before Whitlock missed three darts at double—including one at bull for a 164 out—allowing Cullen to take out 41 for a 6-3 victory.
A confident Simon Whitlock finished with a flash, throwing four 180s in the last two legs—each of which was won in 11 darts—to beat Mervyn King 6-1, in the third round of the HappyBet International Darts Open.
Both players started slowly, but Whitlock pounced after King missed the bull for a 170 out in the fourth leg, earning the first break of the match.
“That was a turning point,” Whitlock told Love The Darts. “If I miss the bull for a 170 and my opponent takes out the next finish, it deflates you.”
Whitlock consolidated the break in the next leg for 4-1, before he accelerated for the finish line. Whitlock couldn’t be touched, throwing in consecutive 11-darters, with a pair of 180s in each.
“I think my game’s really solid at the moment,” Whitlock said. “I feel confident and that’s the important thing.”
Ian White also put in one of the top performances of the afternoon, but it was not enough to get past Kim Huybrechts.
White could have struck first blood in leg three, earning two darts to break. But he missed inside, and Huybrechts held with a two-dart 74 out, before breaking White’s throw in the next leg.
But White fought back, winning the next two legs to get back to level pegging. In the seventh leg, White was first to a finish against the throw, but missed bull for a 124. Huybrechts then got a dart at bull himself from 127, nailing it to move back into the lead.
“I knew if I missed, Ian [White] was going to have two darts at double,” Huybrechts told Love The Darts after the match. “Ian White is one of the players who is very good on his own leg, so I knew it would be very difficult if I missed that shot.”
White kept in the match, holding the next two legs, one with a 116-out and the other in 11 darts.
But Huybrechts kicked off the decider with a 180, before adding another to leave 61 after nine. With White still not a finish, he landed double eight two visits later to complete the 6-5 win. The win continues a bounce-back weekend for the world number 13, after a poor run of form since the end of the Premier League.
“Last couple of months have been real hard on me,” Huybrechts said after his win. “I’ve had a couple of injuries, my mom died, moving—and all those things have affected my game.
“I was happy with the way I felt and with the way I was myself again on stage.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Peter Wright moved into the quarter-finals with a 6-4 win over Ronny Huybrechts, despite missing his first 11 darts at double.
Both players struggled to get going, exchanging six holds of throw. But Wright broke in the seventh leg, landing double 14 after Huybrechts missed double 16.
In the tenth leg, Huybrechts had two darts to break back and send the match to a decider, but he missed. Wright stepped in and hit double four to win.
Wright will play Jelle Klaasen in the quarter-final, after Klaasen saw off a game Peter Jacques 6-4.
Jacques twice broke into the lead, but Klaasen immediately leveled, first at 2-2 and again at 4-4. Klaasen then threw in a 13-dart hold to lead 5-4.
In the final leg, Klaasen had six darts from 127 to wrap up the match, but could only manage a dart at bull. But Jacques couldn’t punish him, missing double 16 and then three more at double after Klaasen failed to clean up 25.
But Klaasen got over the line next visit to reach his second Euro Tour quarter-final on the bounce.
In the third match, Dave Chisnall looked like he was too much for Dennis Nilsson, but the Swede continued his fairytale run, overturning a 3-0 deficit to win 6-5.
Chisnall got out of the blocks quickly, not even giving Nilsson a chance at an outshot during the first three legs. But he missed two darts at double in the fourth leg, allowing Nilsson to punish with a 120 outshot.
Nilsson leveled at three before missing three darts at double to break in the seventh leg. Chisnall cleaned up, and the two exchanged holds to 5-5.
In the final leg, the crowd got behind the Swede, cheering each time Chisnall missed the treble, and it seemed to affect the world number six. He went six visits without a treble and required 21 darts to leave a finish.
Nilsson eventually took out double 18 to advance to a Euro Tour quarter-final on debut.
He will face another unseeded player in the quarter-final, Netherlands’ Ron Meulenkamp, who beat John Payne 6-3.
Meulenkamp—who averaged over 100 much of the match before finishing with a 96 average—pressured Payne’s throw early on, but couldn’t get a break, as Payne took out 72 and 130 in his first two legs with throw.
But after holding for 3-2, Meulenkamp finally earned an opportunity, leaving tops after 12 darts. He took it out, and never looked back from there.
Gerwyn Price put in one of his best performances on the European Tour stage, as he beat defending champion Mensur Suljovic in a last-leg decider.
After Suljovic broke in the first leg, Price wheeled off three legs on the spin, including two breaks of throw, to grab the lead.
But Suljovic bounced back, winning consecutive 15-dart legs with outs of 75 and 120.
Suljovic took the lead for the first time at 5-4, breaking in fourteen darts, before leaving 110 for the match in the tenth leg. Suljovic missed a dart at double 18, and Price stepped in to hit 112 on tops to send the match to a decider.
Price then powered home, kicking off with visits of 134, 177, and 130 to leave 60 after nine, before eventually finishing off a 14-darter on double 10 for a 6-5 win.
Both players averaged north of 100 for the match, and Suljovic only missed two darts at double. Price meets Kim Huybrechts later tonight.
Joe Cullen, who had the best performance of the second round, could not match the sparkling heights of Saturday, but still progressed with a 6-3 win over Alan Norris.
Neither player had a good look at the other’s throw for the first five legs, as Norris moved into a narrow 3-2 lead. The sixth leg was not much different, except that Cullen kicked off with six perfect darts before taking out 76 for a 12-dart hold.
Cullen would earn the first break opportunity in the next leg, hitting 174 to leave 36 after 12. Norris failed to take out 116, and Cullen landed double 18 to move into the lead.
He would never look back, taking the next two legs without much bother to complete a regulation win over a sub-par Norris. Cullen plays Whitlock in the last quarter-final tonight.
Picture: PDC Europe