PDC Director Rod Harrington explains how the Players Championship events were born and developed ahead of this week's Summer Series.

The PDC's return to action following the coronavirus pandemic will see five successive Players Championship events take place from July 8-12 in Milton Keynes, shown live on PDCTV.

A former world number one, Harrington played a key role in the introduction of the PDC ProTour with UK Open Qualifiers in 2002, before the following year saw the first one-day Players Championship take place.

The evolution of the ProTour has led to events now being staged mainly in the leisure centre environments of Wigan's Robin Park and the Barnsley Metrodome, where 16 boards and two streaming boards can be in-play simultaneously.

That was a marked change to previous ranked PDC events, with UK Open Qualifiers beginning life in pubs and other tournaments being staged at holiday camps such as Vauxhall in Norfolk.

"We had to get the professional game out of the pubs and holiday camps," said Harrington, who was inducted into the PDC Hall of Fame in January 2019.

"Even as recently as the mid-2000s, UK Open Qualifiers used to be played in pubs, until we had a think tank meeting in Portugal around the time Matt Porter had started to work in the PDC.

"We all agreed that in order for the game to progress, the playing conditions had to become more professional, which meant taking the game out of pubs.

"Barry Hearn backed the proposals financially and the ProTour system has continued to develop ever since.

"I have to pay huge credit to the late [former Tournament Director] Tommy Cox, and to current PDC Head of Production Mark Leak and his team who built the playing cubicles to the exact specification we had in mind.

"When players come to play in the PDC now they always remark at how professional the playing set-up is, and it's been a real team effort to achieve those standards.

"And in terms of finances, we've seen prize money increase from £12,000 in 2002 to £75,000 per event in 2020, including £10,000 for the winner.

"Overall, I think they've proved to be one of the best things to happen in the game's development."

In 2011, the PDC introduced the concept of Tour Cards, meaning Players Championship events would feature all 128 Tour Card Holders.

Players must win a Tour Card at Qualifying School to earn the right to compete on the ProTour, with two-time Grand Slam of Darts champion Gerwyn Price heading the list of success stories from Q School.

"In no other sport would you find amateur players competing against the elite," Harrington continued.

"I couldn't turn up on the PGA Tour and tee off with Tiger Woods, I couldn't turn up at Man United and say 'I fancy a game today', but that's what was happening in darts.

"To improve the game professionally we had to turn it around so we introduced the Qualifying School system, mirroring golf.

"We spoke to the heads of many sporting bodies to try and take a bit from each, but golf was the main sport we wanted to try to emulate.

"From there, we've brought in the Challenge and Development Tours so that there is now a proper system in place for all players to progress through.

"There's still so much that can be done, and I'm sure the PDC will continue to evolve the ProTour over the coming years and decades."

The PDC Summer Series will be broadcast live on PDCTV from July 8-12, with each day's play commencing at 1200 BST.