All eyes now focus on Lakeside

Five days after Adrian Lewis retained the PDC title, the ‘other’ annual arrersfest that proclaims a world champion gets under way in leafy, commuter-belt Surrey.

Frimley Green, a tranquil little place just off the M3, is the incongruous location for nine more days of tungsten action served up by original governing body the BDO.

It’s regarded by many as the poor relation of the two World Championships. While the Lakeside Country Club is a cracking venue, perfect for darts, it cannot be denied the tournament is stuck in something of a time warp in terms of the surroundings, the officials and, dare I say it, even the players themselves.

As soon as you tune in to the coverage you’ll see what I mean. You might catch a glimpse of Martin Fitzmaurice, the larger-than-life MC with the “Let’s…Play…Darts” catchphrase which he seems to have been trotting out ever since Bobby George was a lad.

Speaking of Bobby, as a TV pundit he is a permanent fixture of any backstage scene where the players can be spotted practising in the background – surrounded by dozens of hangers-on throwing nothing but pints down their necks – before they are ushered on stage by ageing BDO officials in maroon blazers.

There will be Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams, who seems to win every year since all the other decent players left for the PDC. Turn back the clock to 1982 as ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ by Duran Duran is greeted by howls from the Adams supporters, who repeat the dose every time their man hits a winning double.

The lights will go down as Ted ‘The Count’ Hankey walks out in his Dracula cape, tossing fake bats into the audience to the sound of an incongruous house track; Darryl Fitton will do his ‘One Step Beyond’ walk-on; a new spiky-haired Dutch kid with acne will take just 1.4 seconds to throw his darts; and Welsh binman Martin Phillips will make it to the semi-finals before being beaten by Adams. It all happens year after year after year.

But one thing will be different this time. Olly Croft has been deposed as top dog at the BDO, so perhaps the tournament may be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th, sorry 21st century.

And, of course, a new TV deal is now in place. Ray Stubbs’ presence at ESPN means they now have the lion’s share of the live rights to the BDO World Championship, so the coverage on BBC will be limited mostly to highlights. You can only think the Beeb finally started to see it for what it is.

Yes, the Lakeside has its faults, that cannot be denied. It’s well and truly set in its ways and for glamour and pizzazz it cannot hold a candle to its PDC equivalent.

Try telling that to the fans who flock to Frimley every January, though. On the whole they are a different, more discerning bunch than the louts who spoil Ally Pally by chanting the tune of ‘Ring Of Fire’ at the top of their voices with their backs to the action while the players are throwing.

They realise the standard of play, while not exceptional, is pretty high and can be watched in an atmosphere conducive to a sport that requires intense concentration at key moments.

So it may lack ‘The Power’ and there’s no ‘Jackpot’ on offer, but the BDO World Championship still serves a useful purpose for dedicated darts fans at an otherwise quiet time of year.

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