The Winter Gardens is gearing up for this year’s Betfred World Matchplay as players prepare to take aim at the event from July 20th to 28th.
The Professional Darts Corporation’s second biggest tournament has been held in the Empress Ballroom every year since 1994, when Larry Butler beat Dennis Priestley 16-12.
There have only been eight different winners since then: Phil Taylor, Rod Harrington, Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Larry Butler, Peter Evison, Colin Lloyd and James Wade. Dennis Priestley was a runner-up for three years running but never quite hit the target for first place.
The 2019 tournament follows last year’s 25th anniversary celebrations, which saw the championship award renamed the ‘Phil Taylor Trophy’ in honour of the darts legend who retired after beating Peter Wright 18-8 to win the title for a record-breaking 16th time in 2017.
Taylor, aka The Power, was determined to bow out with a final victory at his favourite venue. Talking to www.lovethedartsmag.com after his win, he said: “I’ll miss this place tremendously – I’ve loved it here since the first time I walked through the door. It’s great to win again and it will go down in history, and I’m delighted for everyone who’s supported me.”
Current champion Gary Anderson was the first recipient of the Phil Taylor Trophy in 2018 and told www.sportinglife.com: "This is a special place for me now and I'll look forward to coming back here next year to defend my title."
Fans undoubtedly agree that the Empress Ballroom is a first-class venue to watch this prestigious, world class contest, judging by the guest reviews on Trip Advisor:
“The Ballroom at the Winter Gardens is an absolute delight to sit in.”
“The venue itself was 2nd to none for darts…great views from everywhere…easy to get to bars.”
“Ninth visit in ten years for the World Matchplay Darts in the best venue on the PDC circuit.”
Played in legs format, the 2019 event will see 32 players competing across nine days live on Sky Sports for a £700,000 prize fund, and darts lovers will be keeping track of qualifiers ahead of this year’s competition.
The top 16 players from the PDC Order of Merit will qualify by right for the World Matchplay and will be joined by 16 qualifiers from the one-year ProTour Order of Merit.
UK Open Champion Nathan Aspinall is listed in one of the 16 provisional seeding places for Blackpool. Glen Durrant, Ricky Evans, Krzysztof Ratajski, Danny Noppert, Chris Dobey and Ryan Searle are in the provisional 16 ProTour Order of Merit places.
For details of the provisional qualifiers (as of May 28th), along with the list of four remaining ranking events to play before the cut-off on June 30th click here.