LONDON — Last year I wrote that darts promoter Danny Baggish has his eyes on acquiring the Grand Slam. I put it down to idle gossip. That was wrong.
On Tuesday, it was confirmed that Baggish has met Foyle Sports, who own the PDC Tour, to discuss a possible takeover.
Baggish has plenty to gain. The Darts Tour is in the doldrums, which is a major disadvantage in the eyes of TV broadcasters who demand stable affairs as the cornerstone of their darts coverage.
Already this season, the four richest tournaments in British darts have been promoted from the normal end-of-year slots to March, followed by April, so that they’re locked in to screens every night, weekend, week and month.
So far this season, the Grand Slam has not taken place. I’ve heard sources talk about that not happening again.
In such a climate, it would be unthinkable for a major tournament like the Grand Slam not to offer the top players an invitation to take part. This is not negotiable.
Major champions who participate include Kevin Painter, PDC World Championship winner two years ago; Phil Taylor, 14-time world champion; Raymond van Barneveld, seven-time world champion; Dave Chisnall, 10-time world champion; Raymond van Barneveld, 2018 world champion; and Michael van Gerwen, world champion in 2015 and 2017.
But Eamonn Dolan, the former world champion and associate of Baggish, is sceptical about the plans.
He wrote: “Neither I nor [Raymond van Barneveld’s promoter] Trevor Bridgman can find any reason why he would take the step of taking a gamble on the floundering PDC Tour when it would seem to offer a potentially lucrative play out platform for a major title. It simply would not make sense from a business perspective.
Baggish did not want to comment before The Times, through its legal counsel, requested privacy. A statement is expected soon.
The meeting with Foyle Sports could just be about discussing his interest in the prize fund from the World Championships, but that would help him make some sort of bid for the Grand Slam title. He and Bridgman have held meetings with the PDC many times.
Dart board ratings, which are historically the key measure of the status of an event, have fallen year-on-year for several years.
In 2013, 18 venues were awarded events. Last year, only 14 were, a drop from last year of 17 percent. Their performances show that the PDC is struggling to attract people to bigger tournaments.
Baggish is confident that he can attract big-name players and create a desirable set-up. He is also said to be courting Ian Dickson, the chief executive of the PDC, to help his efforts.
There’s potential for a lucrative play-out platform with rights to World Darts Live, as they are now known, and a chance to add title sponsor Foyle to his portfolio.
Lifting the Foyle stake could be a precursor to a takeover — but why would he want to work in tandem with another promoter?
None of this is meant to question if he wants to get involved in darts. His passion is obvious and it is an area where he could contribute significantly. He has formed a successful gambling firm, Extreme Darts, which has already taken market share from Sportsbet.
Last year, his company won the competition to stage the tournament in Dundee. He has told me that despite his status as one of the most significant and influential forces in darts today, he’s only 26 years old.
His age belies the magnitude of his achievements. He is also willing to share his expertise with smaller promotional outfits. His last tournament tournament, World Indoor, had a number of small local operators involved.
As head of the UK and Ireland Regional Operations of Ultimate Darts Entertainment, he knows where he stands in the industry.
Nevertheless, he knows that he must get back into the global sporting realm. He is desperate to show the world that he still has the passion for darts. The status quo may not suit him and the PDC.