ITV4’s spectacular Autumn of Darts concludes this weekend with the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals at Butlins Minehead and Dutch superstar Michael van Gerwen will be there to defend his title.
Representing the last televised PDC tournament before the World Championships in December, all of the world’s top players will be hoping to find their range on the south-west coast in preparation ahead of the biggest tournament in global darts.
With a prize fund of £300,000, from which the winner will walk away with £65,000, the three-day tournament features the top 32 players in the PDC ProTour Order of Merit ranking system, which comprises solely of events played on the floor throughout the year, away from the glare of the lights and cameras of the televised stage.
As a result, there are a few names inside the top 32, including the likes of Andrew Gilding, Darren Webster and Benito van de Pas, who have shown consistent performances on the floor which have not necessarily been replicated in any of the major TV tournaments this year.
Their reward is to pit themselves against the very best on the PDC circuit one more time before the World Championships, and the unique seeding system, which sees 16-time world champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor ranked at ninth and Raymond van Barneveld seeded 31st, may produce a few shocks and surprises as the tournament progresses into the latter stages, as well as some of mouth-watering head-to-head clashes in the early rounds.
Taylor has dominated the competition since its inauguration in 2009, winning three of the six Players Championships held, but last year, however, the master Dutchman van Gerwen spoiled The Power’s party when he beat him 11-7 in the final following an astonishing comeback in a gripping final, before also going on to succeed Taylor as PDC world champion a month later.
The Dutchman is the current man to beat in the world of darts after an annus mirabilis in which he became the youngest PDC world champion at the age of 24, as well as winning the World Grand Prix, the European Championships and taking the runner-up prize in the World Matchplay.
Earlier in the year he also inflicted a remarkable 7-0 whitewash of Phil Taylor in the Premier League, but the Dutchman is not unbeatable, however, as Mervyn King proved earlier this month in Scotland with an 11-9 victory in the semi-finals of ITV4-televised Unibet Masters.
Such is the unique seeding system for this event, van Gerwen will begin his Players Championship title defence against compatriot Raymond van Barneveld, in the stand-out match of the first round, while top seed and top-ranked ProTour Order of Merit player Gary Anderson takes on another Dutchman in 2012 BDO world champion Christian Kist.
Three-time Players champion Taylor will open his challenge to retain the title against Ronnie Baxter, while debuant Stephen Bunting opens Friday’s evening session against Steve Beaton in a clash of reigning and former BDO world champions.
This should be a fascinating weekend for all darts fans with the World Championships drawing ever closer and the whole Players Championship tournament will be live and free for all on ITV4 this weekend.
ITV Sport will broadcast all three days from the 2014 Cash Converters Players Championship Finals exclusively live from Butlins Minehead on November 28-30.
Live coverage will be shown on ITV4 and in high-definition on ITV4 HD across the weekend, with each session of play introduced by Matt Smith alongside regular ITV pundits and former PDC professionals Chris Mason and Alan Warriner-Little.
Stuart Pyke and John Rawling lead the commentary team alongside Mason and Warriner-Little, with Dan Dawson deputising for Rawling on Saturday, while Ned Boulting conducts the pre and post-match interviews with the players.
ITV4’s live coverage starts on Friday lunchtime at 12.45pm and continues through to Sunday, with the quarter finals taking place in the afternoon, followed by the semi-finals and final in the evening, when the winner of the seventh Players Championship Finals will be crowned in front of a sell-out crowd.
Darts fans who are away from their TV sets can watch the whole tournament live online via ITV Player, available on the web and via the app on all major mobile devices.
The tournament rounds off ITV4’s bumper autumn of live free-to-air darts, which started in October with the European Championship, followed by the Unibet Masters in Edinburgh earlier this month.
ITV Sport signed a three-year deal with the PDC last year to cover four televised PDC events during the annual tour calendar, a deal which runs until the end of 2015.
Recently, the PDC confirmed that a fifth ITV-televised tournament will be added to the calendar, with the new World Series of Darts Finals taking place in November 2015, while the Masters, also moves to a new slot in January.
Visit the official PDC website – pdc.tv – for more information, results and statistics about the event.
Friday 28th November DAY 1: Afternoon Session – Round 1 LIVE: 12.45pm-5.00pm ITV4 Ian White v Jamie Caven
Justin Pipe v Wes Newton
Brendan Dolan v Kevin Painter
Robert Thornton v Darren Webster
Kim Huybrechts v Terry Jenkins
Michael Smith v Andy Smith
Simon Whitlock v Dean Winstanley
Mervyn King v Andrew Gilding DAY 1: Evening Session – Round 1 LIVE: 7.00pm-11.00pm ITV4 Stephen Bunting v Steve Beaton
Vincent van der Voort v Andy Hamilton
James Wade v Jelle Klaasen
Adrian Lewis v Dave Chisnall
Phil Taylor v Ronnie Baxter
Gary Anderson v Christian Kist
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Peter Wright v Benito van de Pas
Saturday 29th November DAY 2: Afternoon Session – Round 2 LIVE: 12.45pm-5.00pm ITV4 Thornton/Webster v White/Caven
Dolan/Painter v Pipe/Newton
M Smith/A Smith v Lewis/Chisnall
Wade/Klaasen v Whitlock/Winstanley DAY 2: Evening Session – Round 2 LIVE: 7.00pm-11.00pm ITV4 Wright/van de Pas v van der Voort/Hamilton
van Gerwen/van Barneveld v Huybrechts/Jenkins
King/Gilding v Taylor/Baxter
Anderson/Kist v Bunting/Beaton
Sunday 30th November DAY 3: Afternoon Session – Quarter Finals LIVE: 12.45pm-4.55pm ITV4 DAY 3: Evening Session – Semi Finals & Final LIVE: 6.45pm-11.00pm ITV4