AT 42, Yorkshire’s Scott Waites is throwing everything into an attempt to become one of the world’s top darts professionals.
Waites, from Huddersfield, resigned from his job as a joiner with the Together Housing Group after qualifying to compete in Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) events, playing alongside the likes of Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen.
Twice a winner of the British Darts Organisation (BDO) world title, in 2013 and 2016, he was a stalwart of that organisation for three decades. However, in recent years the rival PDC has surged ahead, in terms of popularity, prestige and prize money.
In a controversial move, this year’s BDO world championship was staged not at its traditional home, the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green, Essex, but in the Indigo at London’s O2 arena.
Poor advance ticket sales led to the prize fund being slashed and men’s winner Wayne Warren eventually received only £23,000. That was £77,000 less than Glen Durrant the previous year. Wright, the PDC’s 2020 champion, took home £500,000.
Durrant, from Middlesbrough, is now among the PDC’s top players, having come through Q (Qualifying) School a year ago. Waites followed in his footsteps last month, securing a two-year tour card. Having been aligned with the BDO since 2004, it was a significant move for the Bradford-born marksman, who admits to being “disheartened” with his previous governing body and unsure of its long-term future.
“If I didn’t get a tour card I think I would have definitely been playing all the (PDC) Challenge tour,” he confirmed. “It looks like the WDF – the World Darts Federation – are going to have their own world championship, probably running alongside the BDO’s, but at different venues. The BDO will always exist because it runs the counties, but the main competitions, the World Masters and World Championships, didn’t go down very well. They were still run okay, but it wasn’t what it was supposed to be so you get a bit disheartened with it.”
The BDO’s strength is at the grassroots of darts, but Waites pointed out: “The PDC now have their own youth tour. The BDO don’t really have a youth tour. A lot of the players are going on the PDC youth tour and they can play on that until they are 25 years old.
“It is a really good platform for them, but you will always have your local leagues and Super Leagues and the players progress then to play county matches, when you play on stage and it is all a progression then.
“If you play on the county stage and you are ranked in the top 10, you get an automatic invite to the World Masters qualifiers and World Championship qualifiers, so you don’t have to travel around the circuit picking up points.
“But now it is all changing and the next few months will be massive for the BDO. I don’t think it was ever their intention to compete with the PDC. What (chairman) Barry Hearn has done for the PDC is phenomenal, you only have to look at the Premier League attendances and viewing figures.
“They have got everything right. The BDO have lost a few TV deals and that put us a bit behind. Over the last few years we’ve not been playing on TV as many times as we should be doing, but the standard of players is good.
“Some of the top players can compete with the likes of the PDC, as we saw at Q School. Lisa Ashton and Wesley Harms (both top BDO players) got through and hopefully we can give some of them (established PDC players) a bit of a shock.”
Waites won his tour card outright on the final day of Q School in Wigan. He recalled: “It was really tough, I didn’t do too good on the Thursday or Friday so I knew when I turned back up on the Sunday I’d have to play well to get through. I knew I’d have to win all my games.”
Waites attended Q School last year, but failed to win a tour card and admitted this time was now or never. He pledged: “I am going to give it a couple of years and see how I get on.
“I have never really been in a position where I’ve thought I can support myself for the next two years and give it a go. Before, I have always had my bills and everything to pay. I never wanted to put my family at risk, but now I’ve got a bit of financial security behind me. If I don’t give it a go now I don’t feel like I’ll ever give it a go.”
Waites has proved in the past he can compete with and beat the best of the PDC. Ten years ago, he became the first – and so far only – BDO player to win the Grand Slam of Darts, a tournament involving players from both organisations.
The standard has risen since then, but Waites insisted: “If you look at some of the games we played on the last day of Q School, there were a lot around the 100 average.
“When you watch a lot of the PDC games, that’s what you need to average. I proved at Q School I can do it and that’s without putting much practice in. I think if I put more practice in now there’s no reason why I can’t keep my average up around the 100 mark and push them all the way.”
The PDC’s televised tournaments are played in front of raucous, packed houses, in contrast to the more muted atmosphere at BDO events. That will not faze Waites, who said: “To be honest, I prefer playing on stage than I do in floor tournaments.
“I have got a really good mental attitude and it’s practice over the years to block out the crowd. The noise and everything makes me concentrate more. If it is really quiet, it’s difficult to concentrate.”
As for his initial goals in his new life in full-time arrows, Waites stressed: “I just want to settle in, do some decent practice and have a few decent runs.
“Hopefully, I can pick up a few pounds on the way because the ranking table in the PDC is money-oriented.
“Hopefully, I can start climbing up the table, that’s my plan for the next year – to see what I can do.”