Premier League darts returned to our television screens on Thursday evening, but what many people do not know is that the inaugural event was held at Stoke-on-Trent’s Kings Hall back in 2005.
Now a giant of the sporting world, back then the chosen venues held just 400-700 spectators -15 years on and the sport is attracting regular attendances of over 10,000 to watch the world’s elite on some of the country’s biggest stages.
Stoke’s own Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor was crowned the champion in that opening season, and would go on to lift the prestigious trophy five more times before hanging up his darts in 2018. The 58-year-old is still a regular on the exhibition circuit but no longer features on the competitive stage. Just seven players were featured on that opening night at the Kings Hall with Taylor hitting the only ton plus average of the evening. Despite the likes of Colin Lloyd and John Part going on to greater things with World Matchplay and PDC World Championship victories outlining stunning careers in the game, there is just one player left on the professional circuit.
‘The runner-up of that year’s World Darts Championship Mark Dudbridge is still going strong on the ProTour despite featuring outside of the top 100. Canada’s John Part still irregularly features on our screens but devotes more time to his Sky Sports punditry.
The PDC expanded the event to 16 venues and ten players with the elite throwers now visiting the likes of Rotterdam and Berlin throughout the season. While no players from 15 years ago remain at the summit of the darting world, the standard has risen dramatically.
There were five 100 plus averages hit on the opening night of the 2019 Premier League season in Newcastle, a dramatic rise compared to the singular Taylor ton plus from 2005.
While Stoke doesn’t have a representative in the 2019 iteration of the tournament, Adrian Lewis was the 2011 runner-up, but after a lacklustre 18 months by his high standards finds himself out of the frame. After a strong couple of years on the circuit, Ian White was also mentioned in the lead-up to the tournament. But the character driven Premier League format proved a stretch too far for the world number 11, who will hoping to make his debut in 2020.
The tournament will run for 16 weeks, with the winner being crowned at London’s O2 Arena on the 23rd May.
You can read a full report of Thursday nights action here: https://www.skysports.com/darts/live-blog/12288/11630784/premier-league-darts-recap-michael-van-gerwen-defeats-michael-smith