Russ Bray: Gamesmanship or all within the rules?

By Russ Bray 15/03/2021

In the current edition of Darts World PDC official Russ Bray talks us through the rules and gives his view on areas of dispute in the modern game:
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I HOPE all are safe and well. Happy New Year to everyone. I am sure 2021 will not be as bad as 2020 and we can look forward to getting back to some normality very soon.

Mid-December was the start of the World Championships at the Ally Pally, but for us officials, players and staging crew we were there a day or two earlier for our Covid test at the hotel. After the test it was straight to your room, then isolated until you had your result. We were then in a total bubble at the hotel.

I travelled each day to the venue with John McDonald, George Noble and Mark Walker. Once at the Ally Pally we were signed in and temperature taken, then off to our portacabin for the officials via the Red Zone, which was marked throughout the venue via barriers and curtains.

I have been asked about our role as the Referee on stage. Obviously, we are there to call the score and to let everyone, including the audience, know where we are in the match. But that is not all we are there for. The referee is in charge of the stage, checking scores from the markers (although with our PDC officials that is not a problem, as they don’t make any mistakes) and players if asked, to the demeanour of the players, crowd and any other incidents that may occur.

If for some reason a player needs to be spoken to, the referee will address the situation accordingly. There is a second referee watching the match from a TV behind the stage, where he can see the oche and where he can then contact the stage referee via the official stood by him should there be an incident on the stage. Incidents are very few and far between and are usually nipped in the bud very quickly. Another point is gamesmanship. the things people question me about the most are slow play and celebrations to gain an advantage.

The main point here is ‘to gain an advantage’. All sports will have gamesmanship in it, the hard thing to establish is it to deliberately put a player off their game. There are naturally slow players, as there are naturally fast players. When they meet that is where the argument begins, is the slow player putting off the fast player? We have to be careful here as there is no time limit set to throw your three darts, so you can take as long as it takes you to be ready. No rules broken, all within the laws of the game.

This to the fast player can be very frustrating, but again these lads are all professionals and should be able to cope either way round. If your mindset is there, you will prevail.

Celebrations are a different thing again, although that can fall into the category of gamesmanship. Walking away from the board before retrieving their darts to celebrate with the crowd or family or management team, delaying his opponent to his throw. We have seen it before, but you will find now this is a rarity.

The players will celebrate walking to retrieve their darts but all within the acceptable lines of gamesmanship. I honestly believe they celebrate what they have hit, as opposed to trying to put their opponent off. If I think they have been out of order, then they will be spoken too.

All makes for an exciting sport and at times none more exciting as ours.

Take care and stay safe. Russ Bray, PDC referee.

In association with Unicorn and William Hill.


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