Top-flight darts stars to attend Leeds event

Michael Van Gerwen holds aloft the Sid Waddell trophy after winning 2013 Ladbrokes World Darts Championship.
Michael Van Gerwen holds aloft the Sid Waddell trophy after winning 2013 Ladbrokes World Darts Championship.
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WORLD FINALISTS Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright are among darts’ top names set to appear in Leeds this year.

The duo are included in a 10-strong field for the PDC Premier League, which will visit the First Direct Arena on Thursday, March 20.

Newly-crowned world champion Van Gerwen will be aiming to defend the Premier League title he won last year.

Wright – beaten in the world championship final two days ago – has secured a Premier League place for the first time, along with world number five Dave Chisnall, from St Helens.

Sixteen-time world champion Phil Taylor – regarded as the greatest player of all time – will also be in action in Leeds, along with Raymond van Barneveld (winner of five world championships), Adrian Lewis (two world titles), Australian Simon Whitlock, Scottish duo Robert Thornton and Gary Anderson and Wes Newton, a two-time major finalist.

The shock omission is 2009 Premier League winner James Wade, who has seven major titles to his credit.

More than 100,000 fans are expected to attend Premier League matches this year, making it the UK’s best-attended indoor sports event.

PDC chairman Barry Hearn reckons the 2014 Premier League field is best so far.

He said: “This is a fantastic line-up and I congratulate Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall on their selection, which is fully deserved after their brilliant years.

“The Premier League Darts has always guaranteed excitement, shocks and world-class darts and this line-up of ten players is sure to provide that by the bucket-load.

“We’ll be welcoming record crowds for the Premier League Darts and also visiting the SSE Hydro in Glasgow and Leeds’ First Direct Arena for the first time in what promises to be a memorable four months.”

Hearn added: “There is always going to be debate and discussion over which players are included, but the wildcards chosen both by ourselves and Sky Sports provide a great mix of quality, experience and personalities.

“Many more players came into consideration due to the incredibly high standard now on the PDC circuit, particularly Andy Hamilton and Kim Huybrechts, as well as James Wade. James has enjoyed six great years in Premier League Darts and was a worthy champion in 2009.

“However, this year we believe he would benefit from a break from the pressures and travel of competing in the tournament to continue his treatment for his well-documented health issues.”

The 16-week Premier League Darts campaign initially sees the 10 players play each other once over the opening weeks, before the bottom two players are relegated after Judgement Night on week nine.

The remaining eight players will then meet once more over the next six weeks before the top four players progress to the play-offs at The O2 in London on Thursday May 22.

The Premier League Darts season will begin on Thursday, February 6 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

Tickets for the Leeds leg of the popular programme are on sale now.

PIC: Steve Riding

Photo gallery: Betway Premier League darts in Leeds