The current venue of the event is Butlin's Minehead, a resort located in Minehead in Somerset, England. The holiday camp was opened in 1962, and cost £2 million to construct. Over the course of the next few decades, the camp was extended and more attractions were built in such as a miniature railway, chairlifts, a monorail, and a full amusement park and water park. The "Skyline Pavilion'' was created in 1989, which contains all of the main retail areas, lounges and stages for events. In addition to hosting the Players Championship finals tournament, the PDC UK Open is also held in the Minehead Camp.
History of the PDC Players Championship Finals
The Players Championship Finals was first launched in 2009 by the PDC. It was held in the Circus Tavern in Purfleet, Essex, a well-known venue in the world of darts. The Circus Tavern was the long-time home of the PDC World Darts Championships, and therefore it was not difficult to find spectators and have media coverage for the first Players Championship Finals. The event was sponsored by Coral.co.uk, a sports betting company with a long history of running betting shops in the UK.
The inaugural event took place between 30 January and 1 February, with a cash pool of £200,000, of which £50,000 went to the winner, £25,000 to the runner up, £12,500 to the semi finalists, £8,500 to the quarter finalists, £4,000 to the last of 16 and last of 32 round finishing players and an extra £2,000 offered to the player who made the highest checkout, across any of the phases. 32 players from the PDC Order of Merit took part in the event, including some world-class players such as Phil Taylor, James Wade, Dennis Priestley, John Part, Ronnie Baxter, and Michael van Gerwen, amongst others. Of the 32 players competing, only 6 players were not English, three of these players were from the Netherlands, and the others came from Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Canada.
The players were drawn into pairs, and played in knockout rounds. The first round was played to a best of 11 legs, and took the whole first day. On the second day, the remaining 16 players played in the second round, also to a best of 11 legs, and the winners played in the quarterfinals which was played to a best of 17 legs. On February 1, the last day, only four players remained: Phil Taylor, Ronnie Baxter, James Wade, and Robert Thornton. Taylor was paired with Baxter, and Wade with Thornton, and they played each other in a best of 25 legs game. Taylor beat Baxter 13-2 and Thornton beat Wade 13-10, and both players then advanced to the finals on the same day, which was played to a best of 31 legs. Taylor beat Thornton 16-9, winning the inaugural tournament. Both Wade and Baxter drew for the highest checkout, with 167.
In 2010, Coral.co.uk was dropped for Totesport.com, a Wigan based bookmaker. The cash pool was increased to £250,000, with £60,000 going to the champion and £24,000 going to the runner up. The tournament was played in the same structure, only the number of legs were slightly altered. The first round was played to a best of 11 legs, the second round to a best of 15 legs, the quarterfinals to a best of 17 legs, the semi-finals to a best of 19 legs, and the finals were played to a best of 25 legs. In a surprise win, Australian darts player Paul Nicholson beat Phil Taylor in the semi-finals, 10-9. Despite the result, Taylor had a higher score average, with 99.40 to Nicholson's 95.86. Nicholson met Mervyn King in the finals, where he won in a close match that ended 13-11. Nicholson had also made the highest checkout in the competition.
The following year saw the competition move venues from the Circus Tavern to the Doncaster Dome. The competition was also held twice in this year: the original end of January date was moved to 3-6 February, and a second Players Championship Finals was held on 8-11 December. In February, Taylor returned in full force and reached the finals where he played against Gary Anderson. The final went right down to the last leg, with Taylor clinching the title in the last moments of the match, winning the match 13-12. The players returned in December to play in the Doncaster Dome, however this time it was Kevin Painter who won, beating Mark Webster in the finals 13-9.
Move to Butlins Resort, Minehead
The sponsors had changed at the second tournament in 2011, with Australian personal finance and second-hand retail company Cash Converters taking up the role of lead sponsor. The venue had also been changed to the Butlin’s Resort in Minehead. The tournament however, was not held again until the following year from 30 November - 2 December. Kim Huybrechts, a 26 year old up and coming Belgian player, went against all odds to reach the finals, but there he was met by the 51 year old veteran, Taylor, who beat the Belgian 13-6 and won his third championship. Taylor reached the finals once again the following year, but this time was beaten by the even younger Michael van Gerwen, a 24 year old Dutch player. In the following year, Gary Anderson won the competition, becoming the first Scottish darts player to win.
Van Gerwen then won the competition in three successive years from 2015-2017. In 2015, he beat Adrian Lewis 11-6 in the finals, and also made the highest checkout with 170. The following year, the number of entries was doubled from 32 to 64. Though there were double the number of players, the competition was still held over the course of three days. The competition used the structure that is currently used, where the 64 players are drawn into two halves: the top half and the bottom half. In each half, there are 2 sections comprising 16 players. The darts players are paired and then have to play in elimination rounds, where the first two rounds are played to a best of 11 legs, the third round is played to a best of 19 legs, and the quarter finals is played to a best of 19 legs between the two remaining players in each section. The winner of each section then advances to the semi-finals, which is played on the same day as the quarter finals, to a best of 21 legs, and the winners of that round play in the finals, which is the last match on the same day as the quarter finals.
Van Gerwen won the finals of 2016 and 2017, beating Dave Chisnall and Jonny Clayton. In 2018, van Gerwen reached the finals and was en route to winning his fifth Players Championship Finals. He met Daryl Gurney in the finals, a Northern Irish darts player who had previously won the World Grand Prix of Darts. Despite that, Gurney was very much the underdog, and the final was close, but in the end, Gurney managed to beat van Gerwen 11-9, with a lower average of 95.61 to van Gerwen's 100.20.
Van Gerwen returned to the finals the following year, where he defeated Adrian Lewis, James Wade and Mervyn King on his way to the finals. He met Gerwyn Price, a Welsh former rugby player, in the finals of 2019, and won in a close match that ended 11-9.
In 2020, van Gerwen met Price again, though this time in the semi-finals, and the match was just as evenly tied, although van Gerwen won again, beating his opponent 11-8. He met Mervyn King in the finals, and the two played in perhaps the most dramatic final since Taylor beat Anderson 13-12. The match ended with van Gerwen beating King 11-10. In 2021, van Gerwen was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Scottish darts player Peter Wright. Wright then went on to beat Johnny Clayton in the semi-finals and beat Ryan Searle in the finals 11-10.
The Players Championship Finals is one of the most exciting events to look out for in the world of darts. It is fast paced and promises top talents as well as a number of up and coming talents who may be able to create some great upsets.