As of yesterday The Masters has completed its second year. At the end of a thrilling final, it was James Wade who lifted the trophy after staging a phenomenal come back. However, I don’t really want to look at the individual performances, but more at the actual tournament. Is it successful? Maybe it’s a little early to see. And what makes a tournament a success anyway?
Well first of all the standard of darts has to be high. Featuring the top 16 players in the world, you would think that this box is surely going to be ticked. This year we witnessed averages over a hundred and several close matches, particularly the final. Obviously, it’s a little too much to expect every match to be top notch, but a tournament that doesn’t make the eventual winner play at the top of his game to win, has to be deemed as a failure. Wade certainly had to work hard for his win, and in the end it was well deserved. So far so good for The Masters.
Secondly, the players attitude towards the tournament is an accurate measure of whether it will be successful. If the players have a strong will to win then generally the overall standard will be higher. If the players use this tournament as practice for the World Championships or as a bit of match practice, then ultimately the standard will be low and the tournament seen as insignificant. The rankings do act to curb this attitude, however, if doesn’t have any meaning, players just won’t be up for the fight. The Masters should be a desirable scalp as the top 16 players provide stiff opposition. Despite this, Adrian Lewis didn’t seem overly upset about being knocked out in the semi finals.
Another measure of a tournament is it’s format. The first round and quarters are contested over 19 legs with the semis and final contested over 21. It works. The matches are quick enough for the viewers to maintain interest while the player themselves can ease into a match and find their rhythm. So far The Masters are shaping up ok.
However, the problems start with the tournament’s broadcasting. Being a subjective matter, you will surely have your favourite out of the regular darts broadcasters – Sky, ITV and the BBC. For me ITV4’s coverage ranks in second position out of those three. The camera men keep it simple, sticking with the classic camera angles and readable graphics. However, it’s the commentary that lets ITV4 down the most in my opinion. There’s just not the experience in the com box to deliver the great lines able to capture the atmosphere that you get with Sky or the BBC. With the passing of the great Sid Waddell, Sky isn’t as far ahead in the commentary stakes as it once was, but it’s still streaks ahead. On the plus side though, we don’t have to put up with BBC’s Colin Murray.
Everyone loves a good upset, the bigger they are the harder they fall kind of thing. The Masters however, with only the top 16 players competing, will always fail to deliver the underdog story we yearn for. This tournament does nothing to encourage new talent through the ranks and providing yet more match experience and winnings for the already dominant players in the world.
One of the most important factors of any tournament is the crowd. Hosted in the Royal Highlands Centre, Edinburgh, The Masters brings in a Scottish crowd. The draw of the top 16 players has certainly helped with numbers and with the three Scotts in the top 16 currently (Gary Anderson, Robert Thornton and Peter Wright) meant the punters had players to back. The crowd size has been ok, not phenomenal but enough to hear “stand up if you love the darts” reverberating throughout the room and Phil Taylor and Mervin King certainly felt the crowds influence.
I think history is very important in sport and obviously with this being a new tournament, there isn’t the same prestige as you get with older tournaments. If the tournament continues then history will build, but for now there is a gaping hole.
I have been impressed with this tournament, considering it’s only in it’s second year. The top 16 element has much to do with its success. I just think that the broadcasting of it is holding it back. ITV4 have the rights to the tournament for another two years. Hopefully Sky will see the tournament’s potential and run with it. I know one person who would definitely say that the tournament is worth while…
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