The Order of Merit – what does it mean for 2007?

The new system itself is not actually much different from the current rankings system. The time period in which standings are totalled is the same – 2 years. It still based on the same tournaments. The tournaments are categorised in the same way. The same qualifying rules exist.

The fundamental difference is the switch from ranking points to prize money.

This is what will have the biggest bearing on the standings and will ensure that Phil Taylor, the true world number one for as long as we can remember, will actually be officially recognised as world number one. Providing he keeps winning of course!

The current world rankings have Taylor at number 2, 4 points behind Colin Lloyd. The gap has been much bigger in the past. Look at the provisional order of merit though and we see something quite different – Taylor is first with £280,000 with Lloyd second on a measly(!) £98,000. Almost a third of Taylor’s total. Taylor though has played half as many events.

And there it is in a nutshell. This one example highlights the vast difference in the two systems, and like in golf, money is now what matters.

Typically at a tournament there is only a few points difference between finishing first and second, or third and eight. However, the prize money difference is usually much greater – often double. At the world championship the winner receives a cheque for £100,000 whilst the runner up receives £50,000. The points they each receive are 50 and 40, a much smaller difference.

We can argue which system is the fairest until we are blue in the face and I’m sure everybody will have their own opinion on the subject. Without starting to sound like Sid Waddell, what nobody can argue is that Phil Taylor is, and has been, the number one player in the world regardless of what the rankings have said. The old rankings rewarded those who travel to every tournament and pick up the points week in week out. Surely that is the point of a ranking system you say – play the events, pick up the points and benefit accordingly. If a player is in such a commanding financial position that they don’t need to travel to every tournament then that is their choice they don’t attend and they will accumulate less points.

What the new system does is actually enable a player to have a good week at just the right time in a big televised event and their position for the year can be sorted. We could argue that consistency is not rewarded with the order of merit system and that any flash in the pan could put somebody in a false ranking position for most of the year.

What the order of merit does do though is exactly what I mention above – give everybody the chance of having that one good week and securing a place in the big tournaments for the year. The eternal struggle of a professional darts player is funding the circuit travel costs. To accumulate the ranking points to keep climbing the table (or even to not go backwards) players have to travel to as many tournaments as possible. The cost of this is somewhere in the region of £12,000 a year. Without sponsorship this has to be funded by the player from his/her winnings or own pocket. From next year it is within the grasp of every player to have that one good week, where the prize money is good, and to put themselves in a position of greater comfort than they would have been on the old system.

For me, that is the major positive in switching to an order of merit system. Sure, we will get some freak results and players in false positions but at least they will all feel they have a chance at the big time now. Let’s face it, one person wins almost all the major tournaments and everybody else is fighting for the scraps. It’s a long hard slog to consistently turn up and perform and it is getting more and more difficult to break through to the top. An underperforming player can take months or years to drop down the rankings but this new system will shuffle the pack more often and in greater degrees.

I believe it will make the game more exciting – we have to forget about the top spot, until He retires it’s out of everybody’s reach. Further down though, there will be much greater jockeying for places, and competition will be more intense at the big events. There is now more to play for. The split of prize money at the 2006 world championship went £100k, £50k, £20k, £12.5k for winner to quarter finalists. The points split went 50, 40, 35, 30. There is far more to play for with the order of merit system.

So let’s have a look at the current world rankings and how they compare to the provisional order of merit. There are one or two players whose relative positions stand out like a beacon. John Part won the Desert Classic this year and the prize money from that contributes to an order of merit placing of 9th. Look at the current world rankings however and it is apparent that the slight points split applied in Vegas means he lies 17th and benefits far less from lifting the title. A leap of 8 places for Part makes him one of the biggest movers of the players inside the top 32. The other big mover is obviously Raymond van Barneveld – outside the top 32 in the rankings but 4th in the order of merit. His wins and prize money in 2006 alone have earned him as much as most players have earned since the start of 2005. He is rightly rewarded for this and won’t have to risk the qualifiers for the big events next year.

John Magowan (33rd) and Alan Tabern (31st) are two players who have had a fine 2006 and creep up to the top 32 on the back of it. They are outside the 32 in the world rankings (46th & 54th) and may have to go through qualifying for the world championship this year. The current system means that their progress is much slower – under the order of merit they are rewarded earlier for their success. It would mean an automatic place at the world championship. The other big mover is Gary Welding whose world championship quarter final puts him at 32nd on the order of merit. Can he stay for the next few weeks and qualify automatically again?

There are also some slightly surprising differences between the two tables. Terry Jenkins has had a great back end of the year and has jumped to number 6 in the world. This has earned him a Premier League spot but he has played in more events (61) than anybody else on tour and the points accumulation has paid off. He hasn’t quite earned the big money though so he only sits in 10th spot on the order of merit. Wayne Mardle however, the guys whose Premier League place Jenkins took, is actually in 5h (as opposed to 8h) thanks to his semi final appearance in the world championship. Mardle should have won that game and the difference in prize money for reaching the final is a guaranteed £30k extra. He would have been vying for third spot had he won. That is the difference this new system can make.

Alex Roy is another surprising beneficiary of the order of merit system – he is 9 places better off on the money list than he is on the points total. Likewise Wayne Jones & Barrie Bates who are 4 places better off. Even Mark Walsh jumps up 3 places. The big losers are Andy Jenkins, 8 places worse off in 19th spot and Lionel Sams, 7 places worse off in 28th. Alan Warriner-Little, Mark Dudbridge, Ronnie Baxter and Dennis Ovens all continue in the wrong direction and need to watch they don’t end up joining Dave Askew, Colin Monk & Matt Clark who all drop out of the top 32.

Also somewhat surprising is the relative indifference of some of the new kids on the block. James Wade & Andy Hamilton do move up but only one place, as does Adrian Lewis, whilst Wes Newton drops five places and Andy Smith drops two. Expect more from this bunch in 2007 though.

Of the top 32 players only 12 actually move upwards with the switch. Three others have broken into the top 32 and make massive increases (29, 20 & 10 places). Nobody stays where they are and so the rest, 17 players, drop down from their current world ranking position. If we take out the three who have broken into the top 32 we find that of all the players still up there, there have been 19 more negative place moves than positive. This means that there will initially be more unhappy people than happy and probably explains some of the rumblings we hear.

Both systems have their positives and their negatives and both will have their supporters. I think I just lean towards the order of merit and do think that the increased prizes on offer will lead to increased competition and a more exciting game. And that has to be good for us fans surely?

?

The new system itself is not actually much different from the current rankings system. The time period in which standings are totalled is the same – 2 years. It still based on the same tournaments. The tournaments are categorised in the same way. The same qualifying rules exist.

The fundamental difference is the switch from ranking points to prize money.

This is what will have the biggest bearing on the standings and will ensure that Phil Taylor, the true world number one for as long as we can remember, will actually be officially recognised as world number one. Providing he keeps winning of course!

The current world rankings have Taylor at number 2, 4 points behind Colin Lloyd. The gap has been much bigger in the past. Look at the provisional order of merit though and we see something quite different – Taylor is first with £280,000 with Lloyd second on a measly(!) £98,000. Almost a third of Taylor’s total. Taylor though has played half as many events.

And there it is in a nutshell. This one example highlights the vast difference in the two systems, and like in golf, money is now what matters.

Typically at a tournament there is only a few points difference between finishing first and second, or third and eight. However, the prize money difference is usually much greater – often double. At the world championship the winner receives a cheque for £100,000 whilst the runner up receives £50,000. The points they each receive are 50 and 40, a much smaller difference.

We can argue which system is the fairest until we are blue in the face and I’m sure everybody will have their own opinion on the subject. Without starting to sound like Sid Waddell, what nobody can argue is that Phil Taylor is, and has been, the number one player in the world regardless of what the rankings have said. The old rankings rewarded those who travel to every tournament and pick up the points week in week out. Surely that is the point of a ranking system you say – play the events, pick up the points and benefit accordingly. If a player is in such a commanding financial position that they don’t need to travel to every tournament then that is their choice they don’t attend and they will accumulate less points.

What the new system does is actually enable a player to have a good week at just the right time in a big televised event and their position for the year can be sorted. We could argue that consistency is not rewarded with the order of merit system and that any flash in the pan could put somebody in a false ranking position for most of the year.

What the order of merit does do though is exactly what I mention above – give everybody the chance of having that one good week and securing a place in the big tournaments for the year. The eternal struggle of a professional darts player is funding the circuit travel costs. To accumulate the ranking points to keep climbing the table (or even to not go backwards) players have to travel to as many tournaments as possible. The cost of this is somewhere in the region of £12,000 a year. Without sponsorship this has to be funded by the player from his/her winnings or own pocket. From next year it is within the grasp of every player to have that one good week, where the prize money is good, and to put themselves in a position of greater comfort than they would have been on the old system.

For me, that is the major positive in switching to an order of merit system. Sure, we will get some freak results and players in false positions but at least they will all feel they have a chance at the big time now. Let’s face it, one person wins almost all the major tournaments and everybody else is fighting for the scraps. It’s a long hard slog to consistently turn up and perform and it is getting more and more difficult to break through to the top. An underperforming player can take months or years to drop down the rankings but this new system will shuffle the pack more often and in greater degrees.

I believe it will make the game more exciting – we have to forget about the top spot, until He retires it’s out of everybody’s reach. Further down though, there will be much greater jockeying for places, and competition will be more intense at the big events. There is now more to play for. The split of prize money at the 2006 world championship went £100k, £50k, £20k, £12.5k for winner to quarter finalists. The points split went 50, 40, 35, 30. There is far more to play for with the order of merit system.

So let’s have a look at the current world rankings and how they compare to the provisional order of merit. There are one or two players whose relative positions stand out like a beacon. John Part won the Desert Classic this year and the prize money from that contributes to an order of merit placing of 9th. Look at the current world rankings however and it is apparent that the slight points split applied in Vegas means he lies 17th and benefits far less from lifting the title. A leap of 8 places for Part makes him one of the biggest movers of the players inside the top 32. The other big mover is obviously Raymond van Barneveld – outside the top 32 in the rankings but 4th in the order of merit. His wins and prize money in 2006 alone have earned him as much as most players have earned since the start of 2005. He is rightly rewarded for this and won’t have to risk the qualifiers for the big events next year.

John Magowan (33rd) and Alan Tabern (31st) are two players who have had a fine 2006 and creep up to the top 32 on the back of it. They are outside the 32 in the world rankings (46th & 54th) and may have to go through qualifying for the world championship this year. The current system means that their progress is much slower – under the order of merit they are rewarded earlier for their success. It would mean an automatic place at the world championship. The other big mover is Gary Welding whose world championship quarter final puts him at 32nd on the order of merit. Can he stay for the next few weeks and qualify automatically again?

There are also some slightly surprising differences between the two tables. Terry Jenkins has had a great back end of the year and has jumped to number 6 in the world. This has earned him a Premier League spot but he has played in more events (61) than anybody else on tour and the points accumulation has paid off. He hasn’t quite earned the big money though so he only sits in 10th spot on the order of merit. Wayne Mardle however, the guys whose Premier League place Jenkins took, is actually in 5h (as opposed to 8h) thanks to his semi final appearance in the world championship. Mardle should have won that game and the difference in prize money for reaching the final is a guaranteed £30k extra. He would have been vying for third spot had he won. That is the difference this new system can make.

Alex Roy is another surprising beneficiary of the order of merit system – he is 9 places better off on the money list than he is on the points total. Likewise Wayne Jones & Barrie Bates who are 4 places better off. Even Mark Walsh jumps up 3 places. The big losers are Andy Jenkins, 8 places worse off in 19th spot and Lionel Sams, 7 places worse off in 28th. Alan Warriner-Little, Mark Dudbridge, Ronnie Baxter and Dennis Ovens all continue in the wrong direction and need to watch they don’t end up joining Dave Askew, Colin Monk & Matt Clark who all drop out of the top 32.

Also somewhat surprising is the relative indifference of some of the new kids on the block. James Wade & Andy Hamilton do move up but only one place, as does Adrian Lewis, whilst Wes Newton drops five places and Andy Smith drops two. Expect more from this bunch in 2007 though.

Of the top 32 players only 12 actually move upwards with the switch. Three others have broken into the top 32 and make massive increases (29, 20 & 10 places). Nobody stays where they are and so the rest, 17 players, drop down from their current world ranking position. If we take out the three who have broken into the top 32 we find that of all the players still up there, there have been 19 more negative place moves than positive. This means that there will initially be more unhappy people than happy and probably explains some of the rumblings we hear.

Both systems have their positives and their negatives and both will have their supporters. I think I just lean towards the order of merit and do think that the increased prizes on offer will lead to increased competition and a more exciting game. And that has to be good for us fans surely?