MD's BLOG - SNOOKER v DARTS; ANY POOR RELATION? (PART 1)
With some downtime between events during this stop-start opening to the new 2016/2017 Snooker season, I have this week indulged in watching one of my other sporting passions - Darts.
Before we start, with no disrespect to the British Darts Organisation (BDO), I will be referencing the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) in these articles.
A lot of comparisons are naturally made between the two sports (some are unfair at times, though). Both governing bodies are run by similar people, both predominantly share the same headline sponsors, and both have similar TV audiences who will watch both (OK - obviously the live crowds are polar opposites!)
Snooker and Darts are authentically ingrained into British sporting history and heritage forever. Both enjoyed near on unrivalled success during the boom period of the mid 80's - even topping football as the most watched sports on the box.
Obviously since then, times and variables have changed dramatically. However, both professional sports (certainly in my opinion) are in great shape at this current moment in time.
The journey the PDC is on since its creation just over 20 years ago is phenomenal. Just as a very brief example, Dennis Priestley received £16,000 for winning their inaugural World Championship in 1994 (Phil Taylor actually got less in 1995 and 1996 too!) - Gary Anderson scooped £300,000 as the last one standing at the 'Ally Pally' last January. Despite the majority of these big events being on satellite Sky Sports, the players are celebrities and enjoy exposure in the mainstream media.
I also think it is in everyone's interests that both sports continue to do well. As I said before, both sports are run by familiar names. Sponsors will be very keen (and more likely to be loyal) if they see success in other areas of the portfolio.
With the significant rise in popularity of darts over the last decade, people maybe concerned whether snooker has been left behind, though. Personally I don't believe this to be the case, but a few starry eyed comments have been made by some snooker quarters in regards to what the PDC is showcasing.
Logistically and theoretically wise there are a number of fundimental factors that are different; especially in broadcasting, promoting and setting up for a live audience in each sport. Time and costs have to be considered.
This will be a two-part series into whether either is a poorer relation to the other. Today, I'll look at some of the prize money stats and figures available...
2015/2016 World Snooker Tour – Prize Money Schedule
Winner's Prize Total Prize Fund
World Cup (20 invited national teams of 2 players) $100,000 (each) $800,000
Australian Open £37,500 £269,800
6 Reds World Championship 2 Million Thai Baht 8 Million Thai Baht
Shanghai Masters £85,000 £465,000
International Championship £125,000 £657,000
Champion of Champions £100,000 £300,000
UK Championship £150,000 £732,000
The Masters £200,000 £600,000
German Masters £60,000 £275,250
The Snooker Shootout £32,000 £130,000
Welsh Open £60,000 £324,000
Championship League £20,400 £179,200
World Grand Prix £100,000 £300,000
Players Championship Grand Finals £100,000 £350,000
China Open £85,000 £510,000
World Championship £330,000 £1,500,100
European Tour Events (x6) £18,750 (each) £87,500 (each)
Asian Tour Event (Haining Open) £13,500 £70,000
2015 Professional Darts Corporation Tour - Prize Money Schedule
Winner's Prize Total Prize Fund
The Masters £60,000 £200,000
Premier League £200,000 £700,000
UK Open £60,000 £300,000
World Cup of Darts (32 invited national teams of 2 players) £25,000 (each) £250,000
World Matchplay £100,000 £450,000
World Grand Prix £100,000 £400,000
European Championship £65,000 £300,000
Grand Slam of Darts £100,000 £400,000
World Series of Darts Grand Finals £30,000 £155,000
Players Championship Grand Finals £65,000 £300,000
World Championship £300,000 £1,500,000
European Tour (x9) £25,000 (each) £115,000 (each)
World Series of Darts (x5) (Exact figures not known)
UK Open Qualifiers (x6) £10,000 (each) £50,000 (each)
Players Championships (x20) £10,000 (each) £60,000 (each)
Both tours boasted over £7 million in prize money each last season. By all accounts of what I've found, Darts narrowly had more on offer with £7.6million compared to Snooker's £7.4million.
The argument that the Darts circuit has far more events is purely down to logistics and the nature of the sport. Their Players Championship's / UK Open qualifiers are individual day events and they can play three separate tournaments in one long weekend. Snooker's previous equivalent of the old PTC / ET /AT's took that time to play just one. Also think about transportation and arena rigging times too.
I will breakdown the details thoroughly in Part 2, but in terms of funds, Snooker had five events last season that had over half a million pound in prize money - Darts had just two. However, the distribution of the PDC prize money and the format / qualifying system of their TV events is completely different to snooker (again, we will look at the make-up of these figures in the Part 2).
The stand-out 'Jewels in the Crown' of both sports are their respective World Championships. Both offer a total of £1.5 million each - more than double any other event on their calendars. Once more, next time we will look at who gets what money, and debate whether this is too heavily weighted on one event (as huge as they might be).
Both use a prize money based two year rolling list for their official world rankings, although both also have other one year 'Order of Merit' lists as qualifying criteria for specific events (WGP, PC, WSOD etc).
Below is a current comparison of what players are earning on different landmark rungs of the ladder -
Current World Snooker Rankings (as of 10th July 2016) Current PDC World Rankings (as of 3rd July 2016)
1st Mark Selby - £659,733 1st Michael Van Gerwen - £1,197,000
2nd Stuart Bingham - £583,009 2nd Gary Anderson - £860,250
3rd Shaun Murphy - £456,308 3rd Phil Taylor - £489,250
4th Neil Robertson - £425,499 4th Adrian Lewis - £446,250
8th Ricky Walden - £316,308 8th Robert Thornton - £297,250
16th Martin Gould - £218,142 16th Vincent Van Der Voort - £201,500
32nd Peter Ebdon - £122,842 32nd Jamie Lewis - £94,250
48th Mark Joyce - £74,441 48th Andy Smith - £48,000
64th Yu Delu - £48,900 =63rd Jan Dekker / Andy Boulton - £30,000
First of all, the figures (rankings) above are the two year accumulative totals from ranking events. Certainly the top names in each sport will have actually banked a lot more than you see above due to invitational competitions on both sides. Despite Ronnie O'Sullivan not entering a significant number of ranking events over the last few years, I understand he was the only player to have earned over £1 million in the respective time frame due to his wins at the Masters and Champion of Champions for example at the end of the 2014/2015 figures.
You will probably notice how far in front Michael Van Gerwen and Gary Anderson are to their opposite numbers Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham. To be fair, this is probably nothing to do with distribution of prize money for the winners of events, it is just a fact that MVG and Anderson have been on unbelievable winning streaks over the last two years and are so far in front of everyone else.
Remember, these are the totals they have gained just from ranking events. I mentioned earlier that Ronnie O'Sullivan had topped £1million in a two year time span when including invitationals, well, in that same period as I write this, Van Gerwen has netted a near £1.8million in the same time.
The opportunities are there for the snooker players to earn just as much money (if someone can win all 4 home nation events this campaign there's a £1million bonus!), but it is a fact no-one has outright dominated the sport for a while now.
Currently, the Snooker scene is technically far more competitive - you can see this in pre-tournament betting odds (especially when ROS is not playing). Last season on the PDC circuit, in their 10 major TV Singles events, Van Gerwen won 7 of them, Anderson 2 and Robert Thornton 1.
In comparison, of World Snooker's 12 TV Majors (not including World Cup, 6 Reds, Shootout etc), there were 9 different winners. Only John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Ronnie O'Sullivan doubled up. You can claim this is great for snooker - it shows great strength and depth on tour, and very entertaining watching a competition not really knowing who will be making the final stages. You are also far, far more likely to get a surprise winner (ie - Kyren Wilson, Anthony McGill)
On the other hand, some people like to see stars dominate certain sports so they can build big rivalries over time, much like what they have got in Darts at the moment with their Top 4 in the rankings who seem to be a level ahead of the rest. In fact, looking at the record books during the Phil Taylor era of the last 20 plus years as well, only a handful of players have picked up major silverware altogether.
What is very interesting is looking further down both ranking lists. It certainly appears that, at the moment, wealth is being distributed better in Snooker. Peter Ebdon (32nd) and Mark Joyce (48th) are well over £25,000 better off than their tungsten counterparts. Yu Delu in 64th has over 50% more in relation too. Both tours have officially 128 professionals, but it would seem more prize money is reaching lower ranked cueists than throwists at this time. However, again, you must take into consideration the current dominance of the Darts 'Big Boys'.
Another very interesting factor is travel expenses. I will look into the global make-up of both circuits in Part 2, but Snooker players certainly rack up more air miles than Darts players do in their quest for ranking points / money.
World Snooker had ranking events in three continents last season, whilst the whole of the PDC's ranking system on the ProTour is based in Europe - in fact just the European Championship (held in Belgium) was the only major hosted outside the UK and Ireland. This surely cuts down costs for their professionals, and perhaps tempers the figures above.
We'll go into more detail during Part 2. Sections will include - World Championships, Other Big Events, European Tours / World Series / Home Series, Overall Tour Structure, TV Coverage and Globalisation / Diversity.
If you have any thoughts in the meantime, please contact me via email or my Facebook / Twitter pages.
Hope you enjoyed!
Written and published by Michael Day on the 22nd July 2016