OPINION: BDO crisis deepens as uncertainty about governance and immediate future arises

Just over a week ago, the British Darts Organisation convened to elect a new chairman at their annual general meeting. Two candidates, Des Jacklin and Roger Schena, announced their intentions to stand and, subsequently, their intentions if they were elected to the position. What should have been a new start for the riddled organisation, after a tumultuous few years of decline and financial unrest, has yet again generated many concerns over the direction of the BDO, including the very pressing matters regarding the immediate future of the organisation, namely the lack of knowledge over the impending BDO World Championship. Many within the organisation still remain unaware if the event, which is a pinnacle of the darting calendar, will go ahead, with TV coverage, sponsors, ticket information and prize funds still yet to be announced or partially confirmed. Also, with the announcement from the PDC that there will be two women’s qualifiers for their upcoming World Championship in December, many of the BDO’s female players have been left in the lurch over what repercussions, if any, there will be if they attempt to qualify or do participate in the rival World Championship, leading to confusion within the BDO.

The aforementioned vote to select a new body chairman was seen by many hopeful fans and insiders as the opportunity to, in many ways, write off the previous failings of the organisation, specifically the BDO’s governance, and start afresh. Although Jacklin, the frontrunner and more established name within the British Darts Organisation, had ties at county level and has been shadowing chairman Sue Williams since she announced she was vacating the role in April, he was still seen as an alternative step for an organisation very seriously suffering to stay afloat. Many were surprised to hear the news that Roger Schena, manager of the PDC player Dave Chisnall and women’s world champion Lisa Ashton, had put himself forward for the role. Schena has been involved in darts for over 30 years and continues to play at a superleague level, but his candidacy for the position still came as a surprise.

Time up for the BDO? Officials in a race against time to secure sponsors and TV coverage for upcoming World Championship

“I was approached by a few people to put my name forward and I felt that I had some skills that could help the BDO go forward. I am also fortunate to have many contacts within the darts and the business industry who can help in many different ways,” Schena told The Weekly Dartscast’s Burton DeWitt prior to the vote.

The most pressing concern for me with regards to the BDO is the Winmau World Masters, the next major event, and the Lakeside, specifically the sponsorship and TV rights.”

“The BDO needs to use media and social media much better to get itself out there. It is very difficult to access results and I believe the BDO needs to increase and extend its output.”

“In terms of the PDC, there is a good blueprint to follow and a lot of the streaming that has been introduced should also be introduced by the BDO. To compare it to football, I believe the PDC is the Premiership and the BDO is the Championship, but that does not mean that it is still not profitable and able to be successful.”

Roger Schena, manager of Dave Chisnall, was a surprise candidate for the BDO chairmanship

Following a tight vote, it was Jacklin who was appointed to the position by the board, replacing Sue Williams as chairman. However, the decision to retain Williams on the board, his predecessor, as financial director, was one that surprised many. As chairman, she oversaw the BBC’s withdrawal of TV coverage from the BDO World Championship after nearly forty years of hosting the event, instead trading the organisation’s annual event for a much less prestigious and brand new PDC event, highlighting the organisation’s struggles to attract broadcasters and interest in events.

In the years that followed, numerous broadcasters have come and gone, the only constant being the joint-hosting of the Lakeside by free-to-air Channel 4 and subscription channel BT Sport since the BBC’s contract expired. Since then, BDO major events have been hosted by a range of broadcasters, including Dave, FreeSports, Eurosport and Premier Sports. Additionally, the often last-minute announcements on what should be cornerstone competitions for the BDO, such as long-running Winmau World Masters and the BDO World Trophy, has led to uncertainty for fans and players alike. How can those involved in the corporation have any hope for its future if the same people who are culpable for putting the BDO in its current dire position continue to be involved at such a high level?

With only a matter of months left before this year’s BDO World Championship is supposed to be held, and tickets yet to be released nor prize money or TV coverage to be secured, time is of the essence for newly appointed chairman Jacklin and the board to get affairs in order or 2018 may have a very bleak end for the organisation.

Former BDO World Championship semi-finalist and darts commentator Chris Mason believes the BDO should hold neither the World Masters nor the World Championship this year in order to regroup and rebuild ahead of 2019, “They have no mainstream broadcasters at present and, as far as I know, Bob Potter [owner of the Lakeside Country Club] wouldn’t be putting up the prize money without a broadcaster. I personally would shelve both the World Masters and the World Championships for this year and focus on rebranding both events for next year with a new venue and a broadcaster that will bring both events up to date. It would be commercial suicide to stage both events at a huge financial loss. Their reputation within the industry is already poor but giving the event to Bob for free sets a very dangerous precedent.”

Numerous broadcasters have come and gone for the BDO over the past few years, including Dave, who covered the 2016 BDO World Trophy, overseen by boxing promoter Frank Warren

“In my opinion, they need to bring in industry experts. The PDC has put down the blueprint, yet the BDO refuse to follow suit, hence why one organisation continues to thrive whilst the other continues to regress commercially and financially. The BDO do have a place in our sport but it’s not at the elite end of the industry and this is something that needs addressing and not in a negative way. Many other sports survive and flourish catering for where they sit in the market place and the BDO should be no different and I wish them and the players all the very best for the future.”

After a challenging few months and years, time is now short for the British Darts Organisation to revamp its output in order to attract broadcasters and outline its ambition for the future, putting the appropriate framework in place for the BDO to work for the greater good of darts and its players, rather than try to impractically challenge the PDC for airspace and sponsors.

Image Credits: Timeline Television, Tungsten Tales and Love The Darts magazine

Thanks to Chris Mason




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