PDC to return to action with Summer Series

Michael van Gerwen makes his way to the stage during his match against Michael Smith in 2020 Premier League Darts (by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The Professional Darts Corporation has announced that live darts will return on July 8 with the launch of the PDC Summer Series.

The Summer Series will see all 128 Tour Card Holders given the chance to compete in five one-day Players Championship events from July 8-12, staged behind closed doors at Marshall Arena in the English town of Milton Keynes.

Marshall Arena was also the base for the Championship League, which concluded last week to make snooker the first major UK sport to return to live televised action amid Covid-19.

The formation of the Summer Series comes after the PDC in April launched the Home Tour series, which invited players to compete against one another from their respective homes in the absence of regular-season events.

PDC chairman Barry Hearn said: “I was proud of our players and staff who broadcast 43 nights of live remote darts through the innovative PDC Home Tour, which thrust darts into the limelight in a unique way at a time when almost all other sports were unable to provide any form of competitive action.

“Prior to the Home Tour, I outlined the three-stage plan for the return of darts, starting with events played remotely, followed by events played behind closed doors, before events can be played in front of crowds.

“I am delighted that we are now able to move on to the second stage of that plan, and hopefully we will be able to safely welcome crowds back to our events in the not-too-distant future.”

The launch of the Summer Series is subject to the UK government’s quarantine policy on overseas visitors. This enforced a 14-day period of self-isolation for overseas visitors to the UK from June 8 onwards. With seven of the world’s top 32 players, including Dutch star Michael van Gerwen, based outside the UK, this could present a challenge to the PDC’s plans.

Speaking to Sky Sports’ The Darts Show podcast, Hearn said the government policy “seems to be fundamentally flawed in so many different ways”. However, he expressed his hope that the PDC may be granted a similar exemption as that afforded to other sports organisations.

Hearn added: “I believe there will be an exemption as I think they’ve already agreed with Formula 1 and I think to some extent the West Indies cricket team that have come over.

“We want the same ability to bring players over to our bubble. They will be tested on arrival so they will actually be a lot safer than most other visitors and they will be in an enclosed environment so they’re no danger to anyone.

“By doing that, we will get the darts caravan trail working again and the World Matchplay will then follow after that with at least players in form, match-fit and ready to entertain.”

In the event that quarantine restrictions make it impractical for non-UK players to travel to the events, the PDC has said it will announce a revised schedule of non-ranked events for the same dates.