Lock down, Covid-19 and the 2020 PDC season

With events progressing rapidly we look at lock down Covid-19 and the 2020 PDC season and possible outcomes.

On the 23rd of March the UK government announced far reaching restrictions on the UK which had been preceded by a near identical announcement by the dutch government an hour and a half earlier.

Lock down, Covid-19 and the 2020 PDC season

As a result of these restrictions one has to think that the 2020 PDC season will now be impacted to such a degree that a reasonable conclusion might be difficult to reach. With players from 25 different countries having competed on the main tour so far this year it could be argued that a fair conclusion might also be difficult to reach with countries adopting their own emergency regulations.

We saw the impact of countries enforcing their own regulations at the last Pro Tour weekend to be completed before the shutdown. Czech star Karel Sedlacek was forced to miss events 7 and 8 due to Czech restrictions. Poles Ratajski and Kcuik had to miss event 8 in order to fly back to Poland on the advice of the Polish authorities and Spain’s Cristo Reyes and Toni Alcinas were also forced home as a total lock down was coming into force.

These players being forced home meant chances for Challenge tour players to compete but meant that all of them were missing out on the chance to pick up essential ranking money for the various orders of merit. The fact that some countries have been on lock down longer than others means that even if restrictions are lifted they might still not be able to travel across the borders as restrictions could be in place elsewhere.

The PDC’s initial response to the situation

The PDC have been very pro-active in this difficult time and have tried (and succeeded) to reschedule events to later dates so that players can compete. They have started a page on the website which is kept up to date as and when things need to change. Events are changing rapidly and I doubt that these will be the last tournaments that need to be rescheduled.

So many events and venues need to juggle their capacity if and when the situation betters. Furthermore, traveling could be a huge problem for players as many airlines are suffering greatly due to the virus and have reduced flights or cancelled routes altogether and it remains to be seen when normal service can and does resume. It is not inconceivable that for continental players travel will be severely impacted by price hikes as airlines try to recoup some of the billions in losses. Booking flights to Euro Tour events will also become prohibitive if this does pan out as qualifiers often leave short time-spans for booking flights and these could be priced out of players interests.

Ryanair have cancelled most flights in April and May:

Ryanair cancellations

If the shift in restrictions as seen by the dutch government last night (the first restrictions were planned to end on 6th April but have now been extended to May 31st and increased in severity) proves to not have had the full desired effect then many more cancellations and postponements could very well be forth coming.

Would rescheduling events be fair?

As such, how can the 2020 PDC season be completed in a way that is fair to all players? Many of the 2020 PDC tour card holders are in full-time employment alongside their professional dart player status.

We have seen this in recent interviews with Jonny Clayton who still works full time as a plasterer, Keegan Brown works in the health care system and is currently taking on extra shifts, and Aaron Beeney has relinquished his annual leave that he was supposed to be enjoying now and is working extra shifts in the prison service. Many many others are still working full-time in their day jobs, despite the shutdown of many industries not currently forced shut.

Taking Keegan and Aaron as examples they are currently working extra hours in jobs deemed vital for the running of the country, extra shifts meaning their darts practice is being put on the back burner for the greater good. If the season were to suddenly start up again these two jobs could well have seen a high incidence of contamination due to the sheer nature of the role, and they could still be required to be jumping in to fill the gaps. Is it fair on them and many others to have to jump into what would be a hectic schedule and be expected to perform at anywhere decent levels?

We spoke to some of the dutch players who work in the flower industry and they are still at work but the industry is suffering heavily from a shortage of orders as a result of the lock down. It is perfectly possible that employers will not release them from their day jobs in order to play what would almost certainly have to be mid-week and back to back weekend pro tours due to the tightness of the schedule? The answer to this is purely guesswork but from an economic perspective almost certainly no as many industries will be forced to completely start again and will need the workforce doing overtime let alone normal time. This too goes for many players on the tour not just the dutch lads in the flower industry.

So what could/can be done?

This is a very sticky situation for all concerned, the PDC, players, families and fans alike. There is no perfect solution and I am sure that the PDC is working very hard on many contingencies as we speak. However, we would like to offer a suggestion if we may:

1. Freeze the current rankings as of Pro Tour event 7 as a number of tour card holders were forced to skip event 8

2. Use the frozen ranking as the end of season ranking

3. With the ranking being frozen no player loses their tour card, and new tour card holders that won their card in January 2020 at Q-School start their 2 years card in January 2021

4. No Q-School in 2021. The current challenge tour ranking also frozen and the players in top positions are used to top up pro tours as it stands, with the new season commencing from the frozen rankings

5. The same freezing of ranking and ruling for the development tour.

6. Any events played in the remainder of 2020 to be awarding the same prize money to players but not counting for world rankings or other events.

7. Events like the Matchplay to have numbers extended to reward those players who were on course to qualify but now can’t. Example, the 16 that could have qualified to take on the lowest ranked 16 currently qualified in a preliminary round

8. The players championship finals to be a 128 player field not 64

9. The world championship to have a preliminary round. The top 64 in the world to be seeded with the 64 lower ranked tour card holders facing a preliminary round of best of 11 legs against the ROW qualifiers (these to be determined by regional qualifiers as usual), Challenge tour qualifiers, Development tour qualifiers and ladies qualifiers.

As such the remainder of the season could be an exhibition for the fans starved of action, but also an opportunity for players to recouped some of the losses built up on and off the oche during this time. This would also reward the sponsors who in many cases make it financially possible for players to play in the first place (we have spoken to one player who has lost a sponsor due to the company having financial issues as a result of the virus impacting their business).

Pro Tour events could possibly have 4 streaming boards, this would give fans some reward for their membership of PDCTV (kudos to the PDC who have already confirmed annual memberships will be extended) and further opportunity for players sponsors to receive some exposure.

These ideas are purely an opinion but could be worth giving serious consideration to rescue what is currently a disastrous situation for all concerned. We are sure that whatever avenue is taken by the PDC all considerations will have been covered in the decision making and have full faith in a satisfactory resolution. In the meantime stay safe everyone!

Written by DartsMad-Dominic