The Professional Darts Corporation is the top level of darts, it has achieved much since those fraught days of legal threats following the split from the BDO and continues so to do.
With Barry Hearn running the show, PDC events are well attended, well run and punters who go along get to see top class darts and generally have a good time. There’s a lot of love for the PDC and in particular the European Tour here.
That said, there is a festering, malodorous presence lurking around the PDC. Its name is The Darts Regulation Authority.
The ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission has been given a justified kicking here. Now it’s time for the DRA to get the treatment.
On its very basic website, the DRA makes a number of claims:
“One of its primary roles is to ensure good governance and integrity within the sport of darts”
“The DRA has the ability to make and enforce rules and regulations with regard to the conduct of Players and Members which could injure or discredit the Association or bring the game of darts into disrepute and to discipline Members and Players for breaches of any rules and regulations.”
“The aim of the DRA remains to seek recognition as the regulatory authority for Darts worldwide with responsibility for providing and administering rules and regulations that will improve the image and profile of Darts within the Professional and Amateur ranks”
Well ya know Mean Gene, the Captain has a bit of a thing about governance and Due Process. And the DRA are ballsing things right up. What kind of image, what kind of message are they trying to put across?
Let’s have a look at some of their decisions:
Justin Pipe. Coughing on stage. Fined £3000.
Now anyone who’s been to Ally Pally for the World Championships will tell you it’s noisy. Bloody noisy. So noisy that you can barely hear the person sat next to you. God only knows what that racket sounds like on the stage. So when the DRA hit Justin Pipe with a £3000 fine for allegedly “coughing to put Bernie Smith off” when throwing for the match Yates wondered what they had been taking.
Adrian Lewis. Aggressive physical contact with a player. Fined £2000.
Swap the cacophony of Ally Pally for the relative silence of the Pro Tour. On a streaming board Adrian loses his cool and puts his hands on Jose Justicia. Contact between Lewis’ hand and Justicia’s throat. This picture does not look good. The DRA hit Lewis with a £2000 fine.
Gerwyn Price. “Gamesmanship” and inappropriate posts on social media. Fined £21000.
The DRA decided to bundle up a bunch of charges to Wales’ latest darting hotshot. Gamesmanship. This is a subjective thing, not easily definable in a due process. So is potentially on dodgy ground were it to be challenged. “Incidents” involving Simon Whitlock and Gary Anderson. The Captain has never met an Aussie who couldn’t stand up for themselves and Anderson’s dislike of Price, calling him “a circus clown” is well known. This with alleged “inappropriate social media posts” gave the DRA enough ammunition, they felt, to fine Price £21000.
Gary Anderson. Physical contact with a player. Warned as to his future conduct.
In the same GSOD final, Anderson had physical contact with Price. But the DRA didn’t fine him a penny despite physical contact between players being “unforgivable”.
Andy Jenkins. Homophobic abuse. Fined £1000 and a suspended 3 month ban for 6 months.
The PDC is a vocal supporter of the Rainbow Laces campaign and referee Huw Ware is an outstanding ambassador for the LGBTQ community. His visibility matters to all of us who are LGBTQ. The days of going full Sergeant Major Williams are long gone – if you or I were to drop a homophobic slur at work we’d get sacked, yet all Jenkins got was a paltry fine and slap on the wrist.
Mickey Mansell. Deemed to have not played to his ability. Fined £500.
Another subjective one, this. How the hell do you decide that someone has not played to the best of their ability? You could be argued to be questioning the player’s honesty and suggesting something more. Very distasteful indeed. You should only be passing this kind of judgement when you have seriously good evidence.
Mansell’s own statement reveals that he is being punished for having a crap game. So where does this leave us? Will the DRA be asking Michael van Gerwen to account for his recent non dominant runs?
Where Does This Leave Us?
After Gerwyn Price’s appeal over the £21k fine handed down, an appeal tribunal reduced the fine by £10k. Much of this piece was written in the immediate aftermath of the intial fine. There is little that has happened since to change the opinions expressed here.
Usually all we get from the DRA is a basic table summarising these decisions. The DRA were more forthcoming about the Price-Anderson incident where reference is made to opinions being expressed on social media. So Due Process is a popularity contest now? Where the hell were the DRA when I assisted in the content of an e-mail to them about something a friend felt they should look at?
It still remains unclear what the actual trigger is for the DRA to get involved. Is it Barry Hearn expressing dislike about something? A Sky commentator? A PDC officlal? A bunch of annoyed fans ranting on Twitter? If HM Judiciary can publish their sentencing statements on their own Twitter account, the DRA should do the same on their own Twitter account.
I can hear the cries of protestation “But we have legally qualified people on the DRA!” So what? The ECB’s Cricket Disciplinary Commission had a QC on it but it was still a kangaroo court. The ECB have seen sense and altered its staffing and its process. Yates has worked with some legal people and there were a couple of good ones and more real Boris Johnsons. Just because someone has legal training and experience does not make them infallible.
“The DRA are independent!” comes another cry. So what? Independent does not mean infallible. Nor should it mean untouchable and beyond being held to account when they balls up. Noble intentions must not protect you from the consequences of your poor decisions.
The DRA’s sincerity is not in doubt. The message they are putting out is. Big time.
In the DRA’s world it seems that coughing on stage is heinous and worse than choking a Spaniard. Even though players putting hands on another is “unforgivable”. Both are worse than homophobic abuse. And by the way if you have a really crap match we’ll fine you for that too. Just don’t cough on stage or shout and flex your muscles when you celebrate.
Even the ICC – hardly the beacon of perfection – banned Shannon Gabriel for his “Do you like boys?” taunt of Joe Root.
Sports governance isn’t the highest bar to best but the DRA are nowhere near besting it at the moment. Darts deserves better. The players deserve better, the people who spend their money on tickets, subscriptions and kit deserve better and the broadcasters deserve better.
With performances like this the DRA doesn’t deserve the opportunity to be the “regulatory body for Darts worldwide”. It can and must do better.
**Please note that no malice intended towards any of the players mentioned here. The beef is wholly with the DRA.**