...said Linda Duffy when she heard of the PDC plan to offer two places for women in the PDC World Championship. She continued she even thinks it is not fair when women have to play against men. Of course she has an explanation for this in the first moment disconcerting statement - Duffy believes in the empirical underpinned conviction that there are physical reasons why women never will be as good as men in this sport.
Completely unimpressed by Duffy's statement many of the female top players saw the offer of the PDC as a chance and took part in the qualifiers. With Lisa Ashton and Anastasia Dobromyslova two of the best won the qualifications. Both lost their matches but in the first set between Ashton and Jan Dekker Ashton played an over 100 average and made Dekker break out in sweat. She couldn't keep up and in the end Dekker won 3:1 with an 88.95 averages but Ashton's overall average was with 88.65 only minimally lower.
Dobromyslova didn't have a good day and lost 0:3 against Ryan Joyce.
The PDC was very pleased with how it went and CEO Matthew Porter announced the PDC would offer two places for women again in the next World Championship.
Might be it was only the novelty but I got the impression the crowd and the media both reacted very positive and received the two women very cordial. The reactions to the matches were positive as well especially Lisa Ashton's performance was praised throughout. Of course one could read posts like "the women took the men two places away" or "an all-female qualification is not a real qualification", but those were a minority.
As soon the PDC World Championship was over the BDO World Championships started and hence the women's World Championship - at least it felt like this for me... Against the not too recent practice not to televise the ladies matches at all or schedule them at the very start of the sessions when the venue still was half empty now-a-days the ladies matches are always embedded between the men's matches. And so when you don't leave sofa or armchair purposely to clean the dishes or switch to football or take some similar actions you'll have to watch the ladies matches as well (I really would like to know whether audience numbers during the ladies matches are lower.) . This year we sadly had to watch some really weak performances - Laura Turner for example completely cracked at her debut on the Lakeside stage - but some really impressive achievements as well. Mikuru Suzuki's final will not soon be forgotten to be sure.
Not really surprising - as they no longer have to fear any sanctions from the BDO - among the participants in the PDC Qualifying School which started shortly after the BDO World Championship - were some women as well. On all the four days more than 400 players competed for the 19 Tour Cards on offer. Nevertheless Lisa Ashton almost managed to win a card - she had collected nine points and 13 wins. Only one point more and everybody now would be talking about her achievement.
Till now it is not known whether the participating women now will play the complete Challenge Tour - probably as last year they will as long as the dates don't collide with important BDO/WDF competitions. And it is quite likely we will see Lisa Ashton from time to time as a successor on the Pro Tour when not all 128 Tour Card holders will register - which often is the case.
All in all the women left a fair impression - in the World Championships and the Qualifying School. In my mind you not yet can tell whether they will be able to keep up with the men in the long run - not even in the light of all empirical insight about the gender differences regarding throwing capabilities. Only Deta Hedman and Anastasia Dobromyslova till now tried their luck on the PDC Pro Tour. They were not really successful but one could say the same about at least half of the men's participants as well. The sport of darts is more about the accuracy on a short distance so might be the limited throwing ability of women doesn't figure as prominently as for example in javelin sport. I fear Duffy is right when she says women will not be able to keep up with the top players like Michael van Gerwen or Phil Taylor - but again you can say that around 80 percent of the male players can't keep up with them either. I feel the women improved during the last few years and I think it could be possible they will be able to earn a living on the Pro Tour one day.
I completely agree with Duffy - it would help women's darts much more would reasonable structures like the PDC Development Tour or the PDC Challenge Tour exist for them but it doesn't look likely it will happen in the near future.
So at the moment the women have no other option as to grab all chances which are presented to them whether they are a publicity stunt or not and make the best of it. The two women in the World Championships certainly increased the interest in the women's sport of darts and the women got some experience on the real big stage of the sport in front of a huge noisy crowd and earned some decent price money - to be sure a positive outcome. Might be appearances like this make the sport more appealing for girls and women as well. That would be another positive effect as with a growing interest the odds are good there'll be more female players and with it in the end more good female players. Till now the number of participants in women's or girl's competition are distinctively lower than the number of participants in men's or boy's competitions. Even in the JDC events you'll find far less girls.
It even looks there'll be some tangible possible consequences soon - Desmond Jacklin, the new chairman of the BDO announced that the price money for the women's world championship will be distinctly heightened and the format will be extended - something the players for years already asked for.
So no matter whether it was only a publicity stunt or not - by grabbing the chance and by the BDO allowing it to happen the courageous women stirred a lot and it looks female darts is finally stepping in the right direction.