Ten years ago today, one of the biggest events in darting history transpired, as Raymond van Barneveld joined the Professional Darts Corporation. Josh’s Dartistry looks back at this ground-breaking darting moment which was the catalyst behind the PDC’s rise, by setting the precedent for other BDO players to switch codes in the future.
Raymond van Barneveld was a four-time world champion in the British Darts Organisation. The Dutchman was also a four-time Zuiderduin Masters winner and a two-time World Master. Nevertheless, above all else, he was the figurehead of the BDO; their number one and greatest asset.
Just days earlier, van Barneveld had gone in search of his fifth World Championship title against his young compatriot, 21-year-old qualifier Jelle Klaasen. Victory for Raymond would have seen him equal Eric Bristow’s haul of five world-titles, but Klaasen caused a big upset, and Barney decided it was time for change.
It was a significant coup for the PDC, and PDC co-founder and former tournament director Tommy Cox insisted that van Barneveld’s decision to switch codes was arguably the single biggest factor in the PDC overcoming the BDO in the darting-power struggle.
Losing van Barneveld was of course a major blow for the BDO, but more significantly it gave the PDC an enormous boost. Van Barneveld was rightfully considered the second greatest-player in the world of darts behind a certain Phil Taylor, but barring a handful of meetings between the pair, they hadn’t locked horns on the biggest darting stages.
Taylor had also enjoyed startling dominance in the PDC prior to van Barneveld’s arrival. Taylor’s biggest challengers were Colin Lloyd and John Part, and whilst ‘Darth Maple’ secured his second World Championship crown in a stunning 2003 final against Taylor, ‘The Power’ enjoyed dominant head-to-head records against both men.
After Part’s 2003 World Championship win, Taylor won an incredible 13 of the next 16 major TV titles between 2003-2005, just before van Barneveld’s switch. Nevertheless, Barney’s arrival galvanised the PDC and made the organisation a far more competitive entity, and the statistics illustrate this.
Out of the following 11 major TV tournaments, Taylor won only four. Raymond van Barneveld also won four titles, which included his famous sudden-death victory over Taylor in the 2007 World Championship final, in a contest still considered to be the greatest darting spectacle of all time.
James Wade won maiden World Matchplay and World Grand-Prix titles, whilst John Part added World title number three to his collection. Van Barneveld’s arrival had injected vibrancy in the PDC and his classic rivalry with Taylor was absolutely integral to this.
Yet, most importantly, there wasn’t such individual dominance and the level of predictability surrounding Taylor winning the lionshare of major titles had diminished somewhat.
Taylor possessed an air of invincibility which was reflected in his incredible tally of titles from 2003-2005. There was an undeniable fear factor from many of the players, and even The Power’s biggest challengers lacked the belief to test him. However, Barney went toe-to-toe with the 16-time world champion, in a rivalry dubbed ‘The El-Clasico of Darts’.
Their first meeting in the PDC came in the Premier League, which resulted in a thrilling 7-7 draw. However, whilst the quality of the contest was impressive, the anticipation encapsulating this meeting was simply unprecedented.
Taylor won the next meeting in the reverse Premier League fixture, before van Barneveld defeated Taylor 11-10 in the UK Open quarter-finals just one month later, which saw Barney jumping around the Reebok Arena in sheer jubilation. The Den Haag ace subsequently went on to seal the title, his maiden PDC major victory.
Van Barneveld again got the better of the Stoke star in the Las Vegas Desert Classic semi-finals, before their iconic World Championship final tussle in 2007, which saw Raymond recover from 3-0 down to stun Taylor and equal Bristow’s haul of five-world titles.
Taylor monopolised his rivalry against van Barneveld from 2010-2013, but irrespective of this, their matches were always box-office. They’re arguably the greatest two dart players of all time and their genius held no bounds. Fast forward to 2016; they have met an incredible 74 times in competitive action, with van Barneveld winning four of the last six.
However, RvB’s switch also had further-reaching consequences. Very few elite BDO players had switched to the PDC before Barney. Wayne Mardle switched codes in 2002, whilst James Wade made the switch two years later, in 2004. However, Wade was just 20 at the time; certainly not the household name he is today.
Raymond’s switch set a precedent for many top BDO players, by illustrating what could be achieved and this sparked a mass exodus over the next few years. Just twelve months later, Jamie Caven, Vincent van der Voort, Mensur Suljovic, Mervyn King, Jelle Klaasen and current world number one, Michael van Gerwen, all joined the PDC.
The Scottish duo of Robert Thornton and Gary Anderson followed in 2009 along with Simon Whitlock, whilst 2008 world champion Mark Webster followed a year later. Three-time PDC finalist Dave Chisnall made the move in 2011, whilst more recently, Stephen Bunting and Alan Norris, who contested the 2014 Lakeside final, have also switched codes.
When analysing the current PDC Order of Merit, 11 of out of the world’s top 20 are all made up of former BDO players who switched AFTER van Barneveld, including the world’s top two; Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson.
This illustrates the domino effect that has transpired over the last decade, but crucially, van Barneveld was the first of these 11 men to make the switch. He set the precedent, and the PDC have certainly capitalised upon this and reaped the rewards.
When analysing Raymond van Barneveld’s illustrious darting career, many will focus on his incredible World Championship titles, his Rolls-Royce throwing action, his memorable 9-dart finishes and his popularity and affinity with the crowds.
Nevertheless, the impact of his switch cannot be underestimated. Barney’s move on February 15th 2006 should therefore be remembered as one of the biggest moments in the history of darts.