County Lines: A 'Magic' year ahead

By Alan Towe 08/01/2021

AS the year quickly draws to an end we will be seeing out the old and ringing in the new but in the world of darts this has already happened as the old British Darts Organisation has been replaced by the new, exciting, and adventurous United Kingdom Darts Association. In its inaugural season, the UKDA has attracted no fewer than 53 teams.

Paul Marsh, the Chief Operations Manager will be overlooking the five various regions, each with a regional operations manager. The regions are made up of for the North (with Claire Stamper Operations Manager), Cheshire, Cleveland, County Durham, Cumbria, Humberside, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Wirral and Yorkshire.

Andy Walsh is the Operations Manager for the Central region of Black Country, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Midlands.

Wales/Central Operations Manager Stephen Greenwood will have under his control Breconshire, Clwyd, Glamorgan, Gwent, Gwynedd, Montgomery and Radnor, Pembrokeshire, Salopian, Shropshire and Worcestershire while Richard Biggs South East teams are Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, London, Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and Surrey.

Karen Brown will be the South West Operations Manager looking after Berkshire, Cornwall Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Somerset, Sussex, West of England and Wiltshire.

Making up the 15-strong management team will be Oliver Croft jnr (President), Morgan Barrell (Founder and Head of Marketing and Social Media), Colin Savage (Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Johnny Stefano (Chairman), Claire Stamper (Commercial Director and North Region Operations Manager), Davie Hanson (Events Director), Tony Martin (Players Director), Cat Handley (Finance Director), Mike Kenny (Finance Manager), Rebecca Hoyland (General Secretary), Laura Turner (Assistant Secretary), Darren Manning (Sponsorship and Fundraising Executive), Stephen Greenwood (Chief Disciplinary Officer plus Wales and East Central Region Operations Manager), Debbie Jones (Youth Development Officer), Paul Marsh (Chief Operations Manager), Andy Walsh (Central Region Operations Manager), Richard Biggs (South East Region Operations Manager), Karen Brown (South West Region Operations Manager), Micky Reed (National League Divisional Administrator), Dave Vanderson (National League Divisional Administrator), David Ballantine (IT Support).

Provisional fixture dates have been set for the envisaged 2021- 2022 season and they are on the weekends of the 18th/19th September, 2nd/3rd October, 6th/7th November, 27th/28th November, 11th/12th December, 8th/9th January, 5th/6th February, 26th/27th February and the 26th/27th March.

In addition to the National League fixtures the UKDA will be staging a Magic Weekend on the 23rd/24th April followed by a UKDA National Finals on the 25th/26th June. Since the formation of the UKDA a partnership has been formed with the British Disability Darts Association with both parties responding to the news as follows; The partnership will allow the UKDA to work closer with the BDDA to bring disability dart players further opportunities in the grassroots game.

Ahead of the announcement, UKDA Chairman Johnny Stefano said:

“After numerous conversations with Shane (Havard), I feel that a partnership with the BDDA, will be beneficial to both parties, and will generate avenues for para darters in the UK, to showcase their talent, as the UKDA team and I look to provide further exposure for players. “We are also pleased to support any BDDA events in the future as we work together to deliver darts for everyone in the grassroots game.”

Havard added: “I’m excited that we get to work alongside Johnny and his team, and I’m looking forward to seeing our organisation grow.” CHE KERIN (Salopian Press Officer): “Although it’s been almost nine months since a dart was thrown in pubs and clubs across Shropshire and beyond, much has happened in this time as local darts has undertaken a revolution that will potentially change the landscape of darts as we know it. For many years the British Darts Organisation (BDO) was the driving force in local and county darts but in recent years they have endured darker times that have seen pub and club darts dwindle.

"This has sadly had a dramatic impact on the super leagues that feed into the County Darts set up, whilst ironically the popularity of darts on TV platforms such as the PDC go from strength to strength. “Good news is just around the corner, however, as, from the shadows of the BDO a new organization, the United Kingdom Darts Association (UKDA) has emerged heralding exciting times for British darts.

“The UKDA has plans to reinvent the County darts format and whilst there is much work still to be done they have allowed an opportunity for alternative darting regimes to join the Association “As a result of these changes and in a groundbreaking move SALOPIAN DARTS was recently accepted into the UKDA which means Shropshire now has two teams representing the County.

“Other Counties from all over England and Wales including the likes of Cheshire, Cleveland, Carmarthenshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Clywd, Kent, Merseyside, Wirral, and Derbyshire have joined the alliance. “That is, however, only part of the story for the Salopians who have gone back to the grassroots of darts within the County, integrating with numerous local leagues to develop a platform that will suit all ladies, men’s and youth darts, and which will ultimately strengthen and feed new players into the County scene".

“A Men’s super league has already been formed featuring 15 teams from towns across the County who have registered interest from Wentnor to Whitchurch, Oswestry to Market Drayton, Shrewsbury to Telford and towns in between. Crucially there is a strong base within ladies darts which gives the potential for a strong individual league. “Despite these unprecedented times where sports such as darts have taken a massive hit, it seems there is light at the end of the oche.”

PAUL JAMES (Oxfordshire Chairman): “During the early months of the summer Oxfordshire had a vote of where our members wanted to play county darts, it was decided all Super League players would get a vote, forgetting all the politics the net result was just over 60 percent of our members opted for the UKDA system. “The committee who had served the county fantastically over many years decided to stand down. We held an EGM and a new committee was elected. “Eventually all counties decided to ply their county trade within the UKDA, so the friendships built up over many years will be maintained which can only be a good thing. UKDA have got some new innovative ideas for example a ‘Magic Weekend’ for the premiership where counties will play their last two fixtures in a multi-board setup.

“UKDA must be congratulated on a fantastic proposal and have been amazingly positive on social media, it’s time for everybody to put historical differences to one side and work together to reinvigorate county or should i say national league darts and bring some much-needed positivity into county darts. “On a personal side for Oxfordshire I want as many people as possible to come on board and make our county a success, I believe our venue at Bicester Ex-Services Club is one of the best in the system and they are so important to our development and continued success, Martin and his team have given us 100 per cent support and agreed to continue our sponsorship once county recommences.

“I wish good luck and success to all the counties within the UKDA and once this Covid pandemic is finished we can get up and running, the lessons of the last few months have shown us that darts isn’t the be-all and end all in life, my hopes are when we restart we all play with a smile on our faces and revel in the great camaraderie in the sport of darts.”

RICHARD HANSON (Derbyshire Men’s ‘A’ Team): “I played my first county game on the 11th September 2004 against Humberside with an average of 30.06. On the 1st March 2020 I completed my 121st representative county game having won 77 times for the ‘A’ team. “I am absolutely over the moon to have been chosen out of all the Derbyshire players past and present for this opportunity to express my feelings “All I ever wanted to do, since picking up a dart was play for Derbyshire. They played from the Top Club at New Whittingthon when I first started playing darts in my bedroom aged 14. “Due to nerves I lost my first county match but Derbyshire kept faith in me and played me again. Unfortunately I also lost that one. Game number three I won. Best feeling ever! “I absolutely love playing for my county. The people involved in running the county are unsung heroes without which, we wouldn’t have a countyside. “Without them there would be no county, period. The banter and camaraderie in our (my) Derbyshire team is second to none! “And moving forward from these strange times it will only get stronger and tighter as our darting community grows. I personally voted UKDA as they offered a really strong business proposal and budget, so everyone knows exactly where they stand from the word go in this new and exciting era.”


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