True, Page 3 lovelies are conspicuous by their absence but the razzmatazz and showmanship, such as it is, is much the same as Bobby George, the self-styled people's champion, illustrated by taking the stage in his Liberace gear, gold lame gown, candelabra and all before blowing out the candles of Liverpool's Kevin Kenny by 4-2 in the first of the quarter-finals last night. Next up will be Magnus Caris of Sweden, the first overseas player to reach the last four since America's Rick Ney in 1988.
Kenny, a 32-year-old joiner, had reached the semi-finals in two of the past three years and was the championship favourite, but he was overwhelmed even though the 48-year-old from Essex tossed away a two-set lead.
The British Darts Organisation, the national ruling body, naturally sees its championship as the real thing and since it is an open event no one can deny that it has more merit than its closed rival. Some half a million players from the 49 member countries of the World Darts Federation are eligible to enter. Prize-money is twice what it was for the WDC tournament - pounds 136,100, of which the winner takes pounds 32,000. The runner-up at Lakeside will receive pounds 16,000, the top prize at Purfleet.
Despite a glut of the best-known players - though not necessarily the better ones - moving over to join the rebels, attendances at Lakeside have run at record levels of some 2,000, twice that at the smaller Circus Tavern. The BDO claims, furthermore, that the standard of play has never been higher in the event's 17 years.
The fact that the likes of Eric Bristow and many other household names were eliminated early on in the WDC event did not help their cause, the opposition claimed. 'Bristow's matches were taking almost 30 darts to complete - that's a bloody awful average,' said Robert Holmes, the spokesman for the Embassy. As it transpires, the defeat of the Netherlands' Roland Scholten has left the BDO without a single seed in the final stages.
But the John L Sullivan-type boast from the WDC champion Dennis Priestley that he can whip 'anyone, anywhere and at any time' for a suggested pounds 50,000 side stake was neatly side-stepped by Olly Croft, the BDO's general secretary, who pointed out that his organisation would be unable to sanction such a match or they, too, would be expelled by the WDF, the game's ruling body.
Croft cannot see the rift between the two bodies being healed without the deserters returning to the fold. In the final analysis, BBC Television, who have covered the tournament throughout its existence, may determine who will win out once the viewing figures are fully digested.
Results, Sporting Digest, page 39
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