Premier League Darts 2015 participants and venues
Immediately following the outstanding PDC World Championship, Barry Hearn announced a star-studded 10-man line-up for the 11th edition of Premier League Darts, that starts in Leeds on February 5th.
The PDC Order of Merit top four Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis all qualified automatically, while wildcards Peter Wright, James Wade, Dave Chisnall, Raymond van Barneveld, Kim Huybrechts and Stephen Bunting also make the list. Half of those players have been champions of this competitions before.
This is surely one of the most closely-contested leagues in any sport in the world, as any one of them could realistically lift the title. It is fitting too, as the prize-pool has dramatically risen by £150k to £750k, as the sport continues to sky rocket in popularity, as witnessed at the World Championship.
Reigning champion Van Barneveld is never really fancied by the bookies or rankings to do well at in recent years, but The Man is a 20/1 outsider this time too. An each-way bet on Barney wouldn’t be a bad shout with such tempting odds.
It is fellow Dutchman and 2013 winner Van Gerwen and six-time champion champion Taylor who are the top two favourites, though, at 2/1 and 5/2 respectively, and you would expect these giants of the game to at least reach the semis again.
Mighty Mike failed to defend his title last year, as he lost out to Van Barneveld 10-6 in the final. The Power, who reached the semis in 2014 and the final at the recent World Championship, meanwhile, is the only player to have taken part in every Premier League to date, since its inception in 2005. Taylor will be looking for his first title of this competition since 2012.
But The Power’s conqueror at the Ally Pally, Anderson (9/2 third-favourite), is the in-form man in the world of darts, having also won the Players Championship Finals in December. The Flying Scotsman will be the one to beat in the three-month long league, and is aiming for his second title.
There are two other former Premier League champions in Lewis (8/1) and Wade (16/1), with the latter returning after missing out last year. This duo were knocked out early in the World Championship, and are unlikely to make the play-offs here at London’s O2.
Ally Pally runner-up in 2014, Wright (25/1), and Grand Slam of Darts finalist Chisnall (40/1) also return for the second year running, but neither should cause major problems in the Premier League.
Wildcards have been handed out to two debutants this year as well in 2014 BDO world champion Bunting (14/1) and Grand Slam semi-finalist Huybrechts of Belgium (40/1).
St Helens’ Bunting has been a revelation since crossing over to the PDC, and put in a good showing at the PDC World Championship, knocking out Wade before taking Van Barneveld all the way in the quarters but just dropping short.
On being awarded a Premier League place, Bunting said “I do belong with the big names,” before adding: “It’s such a nice feeling within 11 months to have come over to the PDC and be in the Premier League, it’s just fantastic really. It’s still not sunk in, but I’m very happy to be in it and I’m looking forward to several of the big clashes.
PDC chairman Hearn, meanwhile, said: “The competition for places in the Premier League Darts has been greater than ever this year, and there was a huge amount of deliberation over a host of players for selection.”
Coral’s tip: Back a semi-final line-up of Van Gerwen, Taylor (both odds-on at 1/4 to finish in the top four), Anderson (1/2) and Bunting (7/4), with The Flying Scotsman to go all the way.
Premier League venues:
February 5th, First Direct Arena, Leeds
February 12th, BIC, Bournemouth
February 19th, Echo Arena, Liverpool
February 26th, Odyssey Arena, Belfast
March 5th, Westpoint Arena, Exeter
March 12th, Capital FM Arena, Nottingham
March 19th, The Hydro, Glasgow
March 26th, 3Arena, Dublin
April 2nd, The Manchester Arena
April 9th, Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
April 16th, GE Oil and Gas Arena, Aberdeen
April 23th, Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
April 30th, The Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham
May 7th, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
May 14th, The Brighton Centre
May 21th, The O2, London (semis and final)