Colin Lloyd and Dan Dawson discuss dilemma facing PDC regarding World Matchplay

Former world No 1 Colin Lloyd and darts commentator Dan Dawson say the PDC will be desperate to see the World Matchplay go ahead this year, amid the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis.

The World Matchplay represents one of the highlights of the darting calendar – a tournament arguably second only to the World Championship in terms of prestige.

At present, this summer’s showpiece remains scheduled for July 18-26, although the PDC revealed last week that they will confirm a decision on whether it goes ahead as planned by Friday, June 5.

It is understood a number of options are being explored depending on which stage of the lockdown has been reached, in accordance with government guidelines.

A holding date later in the year for the Winter Gardens in Blackpool is believed to be in place but there remains a desire to ensure the event goes ahead in its current slot, with a loaded second half of the season looking likely.

Also among the options being considered is playing the tournament behind closed doors in July at a secure venue while sticking to strict rules on social distancing, COVID-19 testing, and extra hygiene.

The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the sporting calendar and although the innovative Home Tour has provided fans with live darts throughout this hiatus, there have been no competitive ranking events since mid-March.

Lloyd – who famously defeated John Part to lift the coveted Matchplay title in 2005 – acknowledges the importance of the tournament going ahead, but admits as a player he would be reluctant to compete behind closed doors.

“For me personally, no chance I would want to play in an empty arena. To a lot of the players it is the second biggest ranking tournament behind the World Championship,” Lloyd told the Darts Show podcast.

“You’ve got to think of the general public. For me personally, if it’s looking like it’s going to be a little bit iffy [crowds wise], I’d move the date. Move the date; try and have a bit of a crowd in there.”

Playing a major competition behind closed doors would resemble the more subdued atmosphere generated at Pro Tour events – a concept all PDC professionals are accustomed to.

Despite the unprecedented nature of the global crisis, this is not uncharted territory for the PDC, who were forced to hold the 2018 UK Open behind closed doors due to adverse weather conditions.

Lloyd admits certain events may have to be sacrificed in order to fulfil this year’s major offerings, but he’s backed the PDC to make the right decision for the majority.

“You cannot lose the Matchplay off the calendar, something is going to have to give way – whether it be a European event, two European events or a couple of Pro Tour weekends,” added the two-time major winner.

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“You cannot afford to lose the World Matchplay off the calendar until the New Year. Hopefully they can try and squeeze it in somewhere.

“We all know that the PDC will be working very hard and listening to what’s going on. We’ve also got to think that if they did want to go ahead with the scheduled dates would people come in and say that they’re still not comfortable with it, being in an arena.”

Lloyd’s sentiments are echoed by commentator Dan Dawson – who has hosted 32 consecutive nights of action in the initial phase of the Home Tour.

Dawson admits it would be easier for Pro Tour events to be held in the coming months, but he highlights the PDC’s urgency to deliver the World Matchplay in some capacity.

“Obviously, it’s easier to go and put on some Pro Tour events in the first stages so that we can get some actual action underway, these guys can earn some money and we’ve got some stuff to watch

“We can put on an event whether that’s a Pro Tour event or the World Matchplay and I know that they’ll move heaven and earth to get the Matchplay in there.

“It is the second biggest ranking event behind the worlds. They’ve got dates that they’re looking at and if they do so it may be without fans, I don’t know.”

However, Dawson raises viable concerns surrounding the international aspect of the field, with certain countries still not permitting travel due to the virus transmitting at different rates across the globe.

What if, say a quarter of the field are from other countries and they can’t get here or they have to quarantine when they do?

Dan Dawson on the World Matchplay

The British government announced earlier this month that it will introduce a 14-day quarantine period for those arriving from abroad to try to avoid a second peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

“What if, say a quarter of the field are from other countries and they can’t get here or they have to quarantine when they do?”

“Could you then put on a ranking event when a third of the tour card holders would not be able to participate? I genuinely don’t know, I don’t know what’s fair?”

The two-year rolling Order of Merit is another topic generating debate. Gary Anderson is due to defend the £115,000 he won for sealing Matchplay glory in 2018, but a potential postponement could cause his ranking to plummet.

There’s also the issue of those players in danger of relinquishing their two-year PDC Tour Cards at the end of 2020.

There have been calls for the Order of Merit to be temporarily frozen because players are unable to influence their ranking position, but Dawson admits there is no simple solution.

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