Column #JB11 UK Open (ITV Coverage)
Monday, March 10, 2014
UK Open (ITV Coverage)
What’s gone Wrong?
That was not the darts tournament I have grown to love over the last few years. The date, the coverage and the venue all led to the event being a huge anti-climax. I had planned to write a detailed tournament report on the UK Open including a match report on the final. I have changed my mind. I want to tackle the reason why this has happened to one of my favourite darts tournaments. Am I being stupid or did anyone else notice that this year’s ‘FA Cup of Darts’ just did not live up to the expectations? What is your view?
Firstly, I don’t think any of the players can be blamed for this year’s disappointment. Congratulations to Adrian Lewis who won his 4th major tournament after an excellent weekend rounded off by a sublime 11:1 win in the final. The darts really had everything to make it an exciting tournament: there were major shocks as TV debutant Aden Kirk knocked out Phil Taylor and Peter Wright; there were ton plus averages and there was lots of drama so why do I still feel like the tournament was a huge disappointment?
In my opinion, the main reason why this tournament didn’t feel as special this year is because of the date of the tournament. Every year to date the UK Open has been held in June but for some unbeknown reason to me, it was moved to March this year. This may not seem like a big deal but it means that it now clashes with the Premier League schedule. I feel that the date of this year’s UK Open is hugely unfair to the Premier League players despite Adrian Lewis actually winning the tournament. I think this is shown because only 2 of the Premier League stars reached the quarter finals and I think this is because of the strain of playing numerous games, possibly 4 days in a row, in addition to the travelling distance from their Premier League venue. I just don’t understand why they felt the date had to be changed as the only other major tournament in June is the World Cup of Darts.
Another reason I didn’t enjoy this year’s UK Open as much is because to be honest, I really don’t like ITV coverage. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the ITV pundits and commentary team are getting better and maybe are just as good as the Sky Sports pundits. However, it just doesn’t have the same feel as Sky Sports Darts. I miss the big characters of Wayne Mardle and Eric Bristow and even though many fans accuse them of bias, they are just what darts needs. They are enthusiastic and controversial as well as being unique and knowledgable and for me they make darts today as much as the darts players themselves.
The venue of Minehead, Butlins is the final reason why I think that the UK Open has gone backwards in progression. The uniqueness of the UK Open has now disappeared. Every darts fan knows that the special part of the UK Open is the several boards around the edge of the arena that are in use during early tournament games. However, not only does this new venue not have these in the same arena, but ITV didn’t even have camera’s on all the boards meaning lots of quality darts matches were missed by the viewer. Moreover, another disadvantage of this new arena is the main stage being so far away from the crowd! The stage is so long that even the front row fans must be around 15 yards away from the dart board making it impossible for them to see the action other than on the big screens. I don’t know if this was why they struggled to sell tickets for the earlier rounds of the tournament as during some of the day matches the crowd was so quiet and there was so little atmosphere that I felt like I was watching BDO darts! Despite this, I do think that for the night matches and especially the final matches, the crowd was absolutely excellent.
All in all, I just feel slightly disillusioned into the reasons why these changes to the UK Open have taken place and I sincerely hope they can rebuild this tournament next year. Darts is one of the fastest growing sports for a reason and this is the reason why millions of fans now watch the darts across the World. We just need to be careful that we keep moving forwards as a sport and make sure that all Barry Hearn’s hard work is not wasted.