Matt Porter interview: Disruption likely to continue

Matt Porter (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

The PDC calendar could suffer further postponements in the coming weeks due to the ongoing global situation, admits PDC Chief Executive Matt Porter.

The worldwide restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic have seen PDC events suspended since March 19, with all of April's Unibet Premier League and other tour events being postponed.

Speaking to The Darts Show Podcast, Porter admitted that further postponements for the Premier League's planned May dates are possible, with rearranged dates already seeing the season set to end on October 1 in Newcastle.

He said: "We've announced that all the Premier League nights up to the end of April are postponed [and it's] more than likely the May ones will be as well but we're working through the challenges associated with those and we'll fit things back into our calendar as best we can, probably in the second half of 2020.

"So far, we've been fortunate in that we've been able to reschedule every night for a Thursday, which is good because I think people associate Thursdays with Premier League darts, so we can keep that continuity even if it does mean we're in the second half of the year.

Unibet Premier League - Dates at March 25

"We don't want to go too late because of the other big events we have in the lead-up to Christmas, so we'll get as much done throughout the summer and early part of the autumn as we can. 

"It is difficult. Venue availability is key, things have got to fit in geographically, we can't be in two places at once - we need time to build events and then take them down again afterwards - we've obviously got commitments to fans, broadcasters, sponsors, venues and all sorts of different stakeholders.

"We're working through it. Fortunately, we were a bit ahead of the game, we spoke to a lot of venues three or four weeks ago on this just to pre-empt it, so we've had back-up dates held for longer than perhaps other promoters have.

"It might be that a couple of events away from the top tier have to bite the bullet for this year, and that might be something we look at, because ultimately there's only so many weekends in the year. We hope to put on as much of it on as possible."

Listen to "Podcasting From Home, On The Farm With Wright & Porter On PDC Schedule" on Spreaker.

He added: "It's unprecedented times, challenging times, not just for us but the wider world, not just sport.

"It's important to get a sense of perspective, because when sport's up and running, we all treat it as if it's the most important thing out there for us, and then of course things that are genuinely important come along and puts everything else in its place."

Alongside the popular Premier League nights, the PDC also hope to be able to stage European Tour and Players Championship events as soon as possible, enabling players to secure prize money.

"At the moment, we don't want to look too long-term," added Porter. "It's a new situation, an ever-changing situation and we don't know what it's going to be like in six weeks, six months.

"I think it's fair to say that you can write off most of the next three months, that's going to be a difficult position to try and get anything up and running again.

"Whether the restrictions are relaxed at some point in the future and we're able to put events on - tour events for the players' benefit only in controlled situations with extremely limited numbers of people and certain health and safety regulations in place - that's just speculation.

"None of us know, but we're conscious of the fact that darts players are self-employed and that, technically, they're not really earning any sort of income at the moment.

"Some of them might be fortunate enough to have sponsors who are still paying them, but those who rely on prize money and exhibition income are going to be struggling.

"We'll speak to the PDPA about that and we don't want to see anybody fall off the radar in that respect - it's important that players are communicating with us if they do find themselves in a difficult position, and if we have to look at putting things together to help them through these times then so be it."

Matt Porter (Lawrence Lustig, PDC)

Porter also discussed the possibility of introducing events in a controlled environment once restrictions on movement and travel are lifted.

"In theory, darts can be played behind closed doors as long as there's two players and somebody to keep score," he said.

"It could be possible, we'd obviously have to bear in mind Government advice and restrictions - would venues be open, what would the conditions be like?

"It's not impossible, but I don't think anything's going to be happening for a while."

With no ranking events being held at present, the PDC and PDPA are in discussions over the PDC Order of Merit ranking system, with Porter adding: "We are looking at what we're doing with the rankings.

"It's not something we've come to any sort of decision over yet, we're in the early stages of disruption but obviously we will work with the PDPA, who are very good on the fairness and looking out for all the different categories of member.

"Although everybody's got a Tour Card on the main tour, not everybody's in the same boat; some people are extremely comfortable, others less so, some are defending a lot from two years ago, others less so.

"So we have to make sure that changes, if we make any at all, are completely transparent and fair for everybody. But hopefully if we can get as many events staged as possible, then we can still give players as much chance as possible to top their rankings up."

The Darts Show Podcast
The latest episode of The Darts Show Podcast also features an interview with World Champion Peter Wright. Listen now through the link above, or download from Spreaker, Apple, Spotify & Google.