The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) is one of the biggest and most influential organizations in the sport of darts. Formed in 1992 following a split from the British Darts Organisation (BDO), the PDC has transformed darts into a high-profile, lucrative sport covered extensively on TV and attracting huge crowds to arenas across Europe.
What is the PDC? The PDC stands for the Professional Darts Corporation and is the premier global professional sporting body for the game of darts. The top professional darts players play in the PDC’s largest tournaments and championships each year.
With a number of high-profile tournaments boasting millions in prize purses, the PDC has secured the financial future for elite dart players. It has allowed the top professionals to make a good living playing the sport they love. The PDC World Darts Championship, Premier League, World Matchplay, and other majors have given darts a platform and exposure like never before.
History of the PDC
The origins of the PDC can be traced back to the early 1990s when there was growing discontent among top darts players competing under the auspices of the British Darts Organisation (BDO). While darts had gained some TV exposure and popularity in the 1970s and 80s through coverage on the BBC, players were unhappy with the BDO’s organization and commercialization of the sport.
Many felt the BDO was not doing enough to promote darts or increase prize purses. There were also frustrations over the lack of events held each year. This led 16-time world champion Phil Taylor and other top pros like Eric Bristow, Rod Harrington, and Dennis Priestley to talk of breaking away to form their own darts circuit.
These conversations eventually led to the formation of the World Darts Council in 1992, which was quickly renamed the Professional Darts Corporation. The PDC would be run by and for the players themselves, with the goal of expanding opportunities and increasing player earnings.
One of the first priorities of the PDC was establishing its own World Championship distinct from the BDO version held since 1978. The PDC organized its first World Championship in 1994, with Dennis Priestley claiming the inaugural title. This brazen challenge to the BDO cemented the split within darts and marked the beginnings of a rivalry between the two organizations. Due to financial issues, the BDO has ceased operations in 2020.
The PDC’s Early Growth and Challenges
In the early days, the upstart PDC faced significant challenges trying to gain a foothold in the sport while also competing with the longer-established BDO. Scrambling to organize tournaments and sign TV deals, the PDC started out with just the one annual World Championship event in 1994.
However, under the stewardship of charismatic promoter Barry Hearn, the PDC slowly but surely gained momentum through the 90s. More tournaments were added, such as the World Matchplay which debuted in 1994. New TV deals were signed, including coverage on Sky Sports which would prove crucial to the PDC’s growth.
The prize money on offer allowed the PDC to attract top talent like Taylor, Bristow, and Priestly who lent credibility to the new organization. By offering more opportunities to earn a living, the PDC enticed more pros to defect from the BDO. Sponsorships also increased, providing greater financial security.
While it took time to gain traction, the PDC’s player-focused approach started paying dividends. By the end of the 90s, most dart pros recognized the PDC as the place to be to make a career out of the sport. The ranks of PDC players swelled as it cemented itself as the number one darting authority.
PDC Tournaments – Building Premier Events
As the PDC grew in the 90s and 2000s, it focused on promoting flagship tournaments that would attract attention, sponsors, and TV coverage. While the World Championship remained the pinnacle event each year, more big tournaments were added to flesh out the calendar.
In 2005, the PDC brought in the Premier League Darts as a new event to start each campaign. Pitting the top pros against each other in a weekly league format, it proved a surefire hit with supporters. The weekly tournaments were held in arenas across Europe, drawing huge crowds wanting to see Phil Taylor and other stars up close.
Other major tournaments added over the years included the World Grand Prix featuring a double in-double out format, the Grand Slam of Darts incorporating BDO players, the Players Championship Finals, and the European Championship.
More recently, the PDC has expanded with the World Series of Darts, taking its stars on global tours to exhibition events in locations like New Zealand, Japan, Australia, and the USA. This has helped grow the sport worldwide and establish the PDC as the pinnacle of professional darts.
PDC Rankings System
With more events came the need for a ranking system to track player performances. In 1997, the PDC introduced the Order of Merit which ranked players based on prize money earned over a two-year rolling period. Each pound won equated to one point.
Take a look at my post about How Much Does A Professional Darts Player Earn.
The player topping the Order of Merit rankings was named the PDC World Number One. Unsurprisingly, Phil Taylor dominated the number one ranking during his heyday, remaining world number one for over eight consecutive years between 1997 and 2006.
Since Taylor’s gradual decline in the 2010s, Michael van Gerwen has taken over the mantle as PDC’s top player. The Dutch phenom claimed the world number one spot in 2014 and has held it ever since, underlining his consistency across PDC events.
The rolling two-year system ensures players must maintain form to retain rankings. It rewards those who perform well regularly on the prestigious PDC circuit events over an extended period.
PDC Ownership & Commercial Success
A huge factor in the PDC’s success has been its ownership structure and commercial approach to the sport under the guidance of Barry Hearn. The PDC is run as a private company called the Professional Darts Corporation Ltd, which was established by the original players who broke away to form the organization.
While players like Phil Taylor, Rod Harrington, and John Lowe retain minority stakes, the majority shareholder is Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Sport promotion company. Matchroom has been key to commercializing and marketing the PDC, promoting it through arena events and television deals.
Under this structure, the PDC has professionalized darts into a marketable sporting product that appeals to fans, broadcasters and corporate sponsors. Prize money has grown through lucrative event partnerships, merchandising and advertising.
The PDC’s careful honing of darts into a dynamic spectator sport tailored for TV has enabled its move into huge arenas and expanded global growth. Overall membership and revenues continue to climb, cementing its status as the pinnacle of world darts.
PDC’s Global Stars
A major part of the PDC’s success has been its ability to cultivate professional star players who appeal to fans and inspire future generations of talent. The greatest of these is the incomparable Phil Taylor, who dominated the sport for over two decades with the PDC.
Taylor provided credibility to the fledgling organization when he switched allegiance from the BDO early on. With his unmatched talent and showmanship, he became the face of professional darts and fueled much of the PDC’s growth. Taylor won over 200 PDC titles including a record 85 majors and 14 World Championships before retiring in 2018.
As Taylor’s powers waned in the 2010s, Michael van Gerwen rose up to claim his mantle as the new king of darts. The supremely skilled Dutchman has won over 150 PDC titles already including 4 World Championships and 7 Premier Leagues.
Younger talents like Peter Wright, Gary Anderson, and Gerwyn Price have also emerged to challenge the dominance of Van Gerwen and breathe new life into the PDC. The organization’s structure and touring system continues to produce exciting new stars driving the sport forward.
In its 30 years of existence, the PDC has succeeded in transforming darts into a lucrative, high-profile sport after taking power away from the BDO old guard. Its growth has been built on a laser-focused commercial strategy and player-first mentality.
The PDC has offered greater financial security for players through more events, bigger prizes and endorsements. By innovating event formats tailored for TV and crowds, it has turned darts into a marketable, fan-friendly sporting spectacle.
With a stable calendar of marquee tournaments today commanding huge audiences in person and on TV, the PDC sits unrivaled atop professional darts. Its rise and commercial success stand as a model for player-driven organizations across other sports that want to take greater control over their own sports.