Lakeside Ready To Roll(s)?

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After a longer than usual wait, WDF Secretary General Nick Rolls is delighted that the WDF World Championship is finally about to hit the road.

The event, which was last held in April 2022, was delayed to this December in order to settle the organisation into a new 12-month calendar.

The move has come with its obvious difficulties, but for Rolls, the body is now in an excellent position to put on one of darts’s most prestigious shows.

“It’s been a long time coming!” Rolls joked. “Things are in a good place. We are making the final touches and making sure everything is ready.”

“The team are in from the middle of the week to make sure the whole venue is ready and we will then head over from Friday to help induct the players, especially important this year seeing as there are 44 debutants.”

A new early December slot marks a departure for the Lakeside World Championship, previously a staple of early January under the BDO. It is one, however, with clear potential for Rolls and his team.

“There were a lot of things which played out after April 2022, which itself was obviously delayed by Covid, so we took a lot of learnings from that,” he reflected.

“It proved very challenging after that edition to identify the next suitable slot. We were also juggling with the Q-School dates and trying to avoid a clash there.”

“We also thought that this time in December would attract the Christmas party crowd and that has borne out in some of the sales which have been excellent. It also gave us a bit more time to think about what we would do and select a slot.”

“At the same time, we absolutely knew the change would be disruptive for players, hence why we have called it a transition period. Thankfully, we have that agreement in place with Lakeside to return in 2024 and 2025 so this should provide clarity for all going forward.”

Neil Duff during the finals of the 2022 World Darts Federation Championship at Lakeside, Frimley Green, United Kingdom on 10 April 2022.

The WDF have also had to grapple with the PDC’s decision back in September to prohibit any of its World Championship’s qualifiers from also competing at the Lakeside. This was in contrast to an agreement made ahead of the last WDF Worlds to allow a small group of qualified Tour Card holders to participate.

“We are very happy with the roster of players we do have. They have really earned their spots, travelling around the world and doing what they needed to do, particularly with the challenges that period has brought. In a strange way, it has made it a lot more interesting even if we now hope there will be stability on the timings front.”

Broadcasting has been another quandary to present unexpected rewards. Whilst the event will not be aired on Eurosport, as it was in 2022, it will be available on for the duration of the tournament, Ayozat TV from the quarter-finals onwards (Friday 8 to Sunday 10 December) and Fubo in the United States.

Crucially, however, the competition will also be broadcast live on YouTube, something which offers new potential for exposure.

“Initially Eurosport did put forward dates in early 2023, but after a lot of contemplation and discussion we decided against going ahead because the dates clashed with other televised darts tournaments,” the WDF’s Secretary-General detailed.

“The Eurosport/BT Sport merger into TNT didn’t particularly help us as they were reluctant to develop longer-term commitments and that hampered our cause quite a bit.”

Some things, including the venue, may not have changed, but what does Nick hope fans take from this second edition of the WDF World Championship? “We obviously do want to show that we have moved on and this is the WDF, but we also hope it will be a similar level of party experience for fans.”

“For some of our team, it is their first World Championship, so they will come in with their new perspectives and ideas. We hope this edition can really re-establish the event and get things back on track for 2024 as we settle into our new calendar slot.”

“The players are really looking forward to it and they have been really supportive of us. The field this year is very international and so it is an excellent chance to see plenty of new players. Many of the field also have stage experience from other streamed events and I think this will prepare them a lot better this time around.”

The WDF World Championship gets underway on Saturday at 1pm. Tickets remain available here.


This is an abridged version of our exclusive interview with Nick published in Darts World Extra 13: Lakeside Special – Download or read the full version FREE

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