History of the Premier League
Darts has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years, and buoyed by the success of the PDC World Championships, Sky Sports television created Premier League Darts in 2005. The name of the new competition is no coincidence, as Sky are the broadcast rights holders for the insanely popular English football Premier League and wanted to sprinkle a bit of that Premier stardust over the sport of arrows.
Premier League Darts is a competition between ten of the top dart players in the world who play each other twice in order to determine a champion. The four highest ranked players in the Professional Darts Corporation order of merit automatically gain admittance to the league, and the remaining six places are given to wildcard selections where popularity can count towards entry just as much as ranking points.
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The league takes place every week between February and May until a champion is determined, and the winner’s prize has risen every year since the inaugural competition. Currently, the total prize fund stands at £725,000, with £150,000 of that amount going to the winner. The league has had little difficulty in attracting big name sponsors since the competition began, due in no small part to the guaranteed television exposure that Sky could bring to the table. Matches are held in front of packed auditoriums throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Ireland and the Netherlands.
There can be absolutely no question that Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor has dominated Premier League Darts, appearing in all 12 editions of the tournament and coming out on top on no fewer than six occasions. He also holds the record for the longest unbeaten streak -an astonishing 44 games between 2005 and 2008 – a feat unlikely to be equalled any time soon. Given that he also holds the record for best overall darting average in the group stage and the largest margins of victory in the history of the competition, there can be no doubt that Taylor is the king of Premier League Darts.
Not even the king can go on forever of course, and there are plenty of rivals looking to usurp Taylor’s position at the top of the heap. In fact Taylor has not won the league since 2012, since when Dutchmen Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld have triumphed, as has Scotland’s Gary Anderson in 2015. Taylor, van Gerwen and Anderson all remain in contention for the title in 2016, as do the young English players James Wade and Adrian Lewis.
No matter who comes out on top at the end of the year, it will be a long time before a player emerges to dominate the sport in the manner of Phil Taylor. In the meantime the crowds continue to flock to venues across the UK to witness top class Premier League Darts and this particular train shows no sign of slowing down.