Whatever positive media attention it may garner, the odd Premier League appearance here and the odd World Series showing there will not change the prejudiced system women in darts face. Only a renewed and purposeful focus from the PDC will do that.
There’s an ever-expanding group of disgruntled darts fans who have voiced their frustration with the PDC’s attitude to Fallon Sherrock. The constant references, the at times wall-to-wall coverage and the (in some people’s eyes) unmerited places in some of the PDC’s flagship events. Let’s be clear, none of this is done out of disrespect for Fallon Sherrock. Many of those who have expressed concerns are huge and longstanding supporters of women’s darts. It is, as I perceive it, a cynical attitude, people who know that for all the fanfare about one individual there is, beneath of all of this, a circuit and group of players who could be doing so much better.
I want to avoid getting into a debate about whether or not Fallon Sherrock deserves the attention she is getting. It is right that more women are being given the opportunity to appear on TV events and build a profile in the game. But if her successes should have led to anything, it is the overall strengthening of the women’s game. In my opinion, it has to be asked what would have happened if Sherrock had not made the run she indeed did, or if Lisa Ashton had not won her Tour Card last month. Would Barry Hearn and the PDC have suddenly had a eureka moment, and decided it is about time they invest effort into nurturing ladies’ darts, or would, as I suspect, things have just ticked on as normal, with the women’s side of the game continuing to be held up by a flagging BDO?
This, for me, is why I found Thursday night nothing short of uncomfortable and unenjoyable. It felt like the same rehashed narrative as at the World Championship, and just more opportunity for Sky and the PDC to flaunt Sherrock’s story without any tangible benefit for women’s darts.
A couple of quick points for clarification. Firstly, I am not suggesting that Sherrock’s successes won’t have had an impact. As I said in my piece on dartsweb after she was knocked out of the event, the overall influence of her run on many young women and aspiring darts players is perhaps unknowable in its magnitude. My issue is that the PDC is not doing the right things to further the women’s game from that. Secondly, I understand the complete business sense of the PDC’s reaction. You only have to see the outreach of her success in December and the vast media attention it received to understand the relevance of her successes more broadly than in darts and why the PDC are seeking more headlines with the potential of other big name scalps. But I don’t think it would be that hard (or that expensive) for the PDC to aim the fire differently to help women’s darts as a whole.
So what do I propose? Well, if the PDC really claims to be the sport’s leading ambassador, it is time it picks up that role truly in women’s darts. It is just fact that they have a much less-developed women’s setup than the BDO out of choice. But right now it’s hard to see another ‘Fallon moment’ or ‘Lisa moment’ happening without grassroots support. I’ve always been of the belief that a women’s only tour is the best way to grow the ladies’ game. Hedging all your bets on women rising up in a mixed tour fails to acknowledge all of the invisible barriers that the sport’s leading ladies face. A string of women’s events, with a sizeable prize pot (another issue – the measly sums the BDO’s female players play for, whilst travelling to all the same events, deters many) would be a very positive move. Simply, the women’s game as a whole will only rise up if the opportunities are offered for one and all, and not just those lucky few to break through.
Image Credits: The Independent
By Darts Web 180