Ashton slams "not strong enough" jibes
By Phil Lanning 16/10/2020
“You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else, in fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not show you under, if you are really going to get your reform realised.”
The words of Emmeline Pankhurst could well be attributed to the dramatic rise of ladies darts on the world stage during that spectacular few weeks in late December and January.
Pankhurst famously helped women get the right to vote, the likes of Fallon Sherrock and Lisa Ashton are helping put women on the map in the sporting world.
Sherrock, as Sky Sports commentator Rod Studd proclaimed “smashed the glass ceiling” when she beat Ted Evetts at the Alexandra Palace last December.
Ashton, by contrast, is the least likely to shout from any rooftops. She’s more crash the pan than flash in the pan.
When she won her third World Championship she turned down champers for “a brew and a ham butty”.
By design she is the epitome of northern powerhouse. A Bolton lass with gravy running through her veins, a Coronation Street accent and hard as cobbles.
That’s why the “women aren’t strong enough” jibes are undoubtedly the presumptions that really grind Ashton.
When I questioned why that is said, it clearly fired-up her up. She admitted: “It’s hard, very hard. It’s always been viewed as a man’s sport. It’s always been in the pub and then men playing.
“For women to break through in the sport we’ve had to overcome hurdles. It’s always been said that women aren’t strong enough to compete with the men.
“But slowly we are breaking that down. It’s still hard, we are still classed as they don’t think we can do it.
“We are always determined, we are going to do it. We are trying our best. We just need those people who knock us to give us time.
“It is annoying that we are considered weak. I don’t get it. I’m sick of those taunts.
“I’m the youngest and grew up with five brothers, I’ve always had to stand up for myself. I always tell them what they have to do.
“They say the women aren’t strong enough and I ask ‘why are they not’. They’ve got three darts, we’ve got three darts. It’s not about physically how we are built.
“We are mentally and physically strong enough. Just because we don’t shout the loudest about it, we think things through and then do it. We have to be heard.
“I’m doing that now on stage like Fallon has. I’m going to do it with this tour card, it’s only me in the men’s game at the minute. I still have to fight.
“I haven’t come into the tour to make the numbers up. I’m here to do my best and take you lot down.
“I don’t think about the wider picture, I just look at what I can achieve in darts. When people ask you about what the effect on women is, that’s the only time you realise.
“All I think about is what we can do. It’s like Billie Jean King, she fought to get the ladies’ more money. It’s still worth fighting.
“We are grateful that the PDC have still kept two places in the World Championship. Hopefully in time that will improve to double.
“The more opportunities we can get for ladies to play in the World Championship, it will open more doors for more ladies to make a huge impression on the biggest stage of all.”
The PDC are certainly throwing open the doors for the women’s game.
They will stage a four-event Women's Series this weekend, giving players the opportunity to qualify for the William Hill World Darts Championship as well as the Grand Slam of Darts.
Two places in the 2020/21 World Championship will be on offer for female players based on prize money won across the four events to be held for the next three days.
There has been a groundswell of support for the women’s game since Sherrock’s two wins at the Worlds and Ashton becoming the first woman to gain a PDC tour card in January.
Three-time World Champion Ashton, 50, now reckons the ladies have to take this opportunity.
She said: “It is brilliant news and it’s come at the right time for ladies darts to be fair. It’s nice that they’ve been listening to us and giving us this opportunity.
“I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully I can do well in them.
“It’s giving ladies darts another step, another level. We’ve always had the BDO and that’s the only competition we’ve ever had. We’ve never had the opportunity to go another level.
“To be brought into the Professional Darts Corporation. This is the chance now and we’ve got to back it and prove what we’ve been saying. I know we are all determined to do it.
“We have had the BDO for years, but with this new progress we are starting from scratch. We’ve now got to push it forward.
“There’s younger girls coming into the Junior Darts Corporation now, we’ve got to build a structure for them now and into the PDC. Then they’ve got something to aim for.
“The money is massive there they can potentially win. Hopefully they can build it up and gain as much money as the men have got.
“A lot of the ladies can compete with the men. But there’s some who still haven’t quite got the confidence to compete with the men right now.
“So to have separate tournaments it gives those ladies the chance to build their confidence to take the next step. It’s also something to aim at for the youth ladies coming through.
“Hopefully the time will come when they don’t need to be separate but at the moment we need to build up a structure.”
The mini-tour this weekend will replace the two separate qualifying tournaments for the World Championship which have been staged over the past two years, offering £20,000 prize money in total across the four events.
Entry will be £25 per player per event, and the PDC Women's Series will be open to all female players aged 16 and above.
Ahead of the four PDC Women's Series events, a separate, free-to-enter Grand Slam of Darts Qualifier will be staged on Friday October 16, offering one place in November's tournament.
Ashton added: “The way I’m looking at it is that I’m focusing on myself because it’s a new chapter in my life. I just want to be so successful.
“But I want to keep proving my ladies darts is all about and what our levels can go to. Then when I do retire hopefully I have left a legacy for young girls to look at and know they can do this and follow in my footsteps.
“I finally got my head around it and got the tour card. I then got to play a month in it and then we had lockdown and it’s been taken away again.
“I felt I had got the tour card at the right time in January, now it seems to have been the wrong time.
“I’ve just got to try and stay focused and take the opportunities when they come. I’ve still got another full year and then try and retain my card.
“It’s good now that when I play the guys on the tour they just treat me like just another player. It’s not like you’ve lost to Lisa, you’ve lost to a woman. They’ve welcomed me in brilliantly just as a good professional player.”
Ashton would love nothing more than to stick the ‘not strong jibes’ back down the throats of the taunters.
But when she does, crack open the Tetley. She added: “At Lakeside when I won my third world title, I got off the stage and there was champagne. I had a sip but someone asked me what I really wanted. I said oh my god I just need a brew and a ham butty!
“No one could believe it that I’d become World Champion I just had a brew and a ham sandwich.”
That sums up Ashton perfectly.
Forget the Bolly; it’s about bullseyes, brews and a butty.