Belgian broadcaster VTM2 launch Darts Academy in search for future stars

VTM2 Darts Academy

Belgian broadcaster VTM2 are working to produce the country's stars of the future after launching a Darts Academy, with the aim of enabling the country’s brightest talents to earn a place on the PDC circuit.

Over 3,000 players applied for the chance to be part of the ground-breaking VTM2 Academy, which will see the best 15 players sponsored to compete at PDC Qualifying School in January 2024.

The concept came from VTM2 commentator Rudy Lanssens and expert Erik Clarys, a former PDC professional and World Masters winner whose career was ended by a serious elbow injury in 2006.

"The idea was to encourage more players to become professionals - obviously Dimitri and Kim are the biggest names in Belgium but we want to help develop new stars to join them," said Lanssens.

"Erik decided to look for talent and it was opened up to all players in Belgium to come to the VTM studios, so there were some players who already have stage experience like Andy Baetens, and others who are complete newcomers.

"We do "The Voice" and "Belgium's Got Talent" there and this was the biggest audition that VTM has had in over 30 years of the channel - we had to limit applications to 3,000 players and 2,100 then attended to try to get through the audition!

"The audition was to land 12 out of 15 darts in a specific random number to move through, and 165 players passed the test.

"Erik then stripped the number down to 34 following a second challenge, and we think we've now got the best talent in Belgium in the VTM2 Academy.

"The idea now is for them to play each other and get stronger, and VTM2 will pay for the best 15 to be sponsored to go to Q School in 2024.

"The vibe in the studio was very exciting and players travelled from across Belgium - it was incredible and it shows how much interest there is in darts at the moment.

"Our plan is to also do this in 2024 and to help develop talent in Belgium and give them a chance to become a pro in future, and the next step will be involving women as well.

"Although only 8% of players got through the first challenge, the remaining 92% were all really positive and have indicated that they would come back next year too."

The sport’s popularity in Belgium has soared in recent years, aided by VTM acquiring rights to broadcast PDC televised tournaments and the Belgian Darts Open on the European Tour.

The sport's growth in Belgium will continue in 2024 with Antwerp set to join Wieze in hosting a European Tour event to guarantee two three-days tournaments in the country next year.

Dimitri Van den Bergh and Kim Huybrechts have also been instrumental in this growth, and the pair account for two of the seven Belgian players to currently hold PDC Tour Cards.

Clarys - a UK Open quarter-finalist back in 2005 - is hoping that figure rises over the coming years, after hailing the conveyor belt of talent coming through the ranks in Belgium.

"A lot of youngsters bubble up from the numerous workshops all over the country,” revealed Clarys, who will be mentoring the players and offering them coaching tips based on his own experience.

"With two European Tour events in Belgium in 2024 and the ongoing coverage of PDC events on VTM2, darts has never been more popular in our country.

"Half of the players [in the Academy] are younger than 25, including five talents younger then 18, which means the future of darts in Belgium looks really bright.”