Lorraine Winstanley on female players at the World Darts Championship

Lorraine Winstanley on female players at the World Darts Championship

The World Darts Championship has evolved beyond recognition from its earliest incarnation but the most notable change, the inclusion of female players, is set to further the sport’s modernity.

At least two ladies are guaranteed to be in the 96-player field for the 2019 tournament at Alexandra Palace for the first time in a radical change more progressive than any switch of location from Essex to London.

"Nobody wants to lose to a girl," jokes Lorraine Winstanley, who is well-placed to create history by becoming the first female entrant to the World Darts Championship. She believes that women will have an inherent advantage at the oche.

‍"We all have three darts to throw at a round thing on the wall. Physically, there is no difference." - Lorraine Winstanley

"Men don't like playing women," she told Sky Sports. "And they certainly don't like playing women who can really play.

"I think the difference is mentally. I think men can switch off more than women.

"I've got kids and dogs and, when I'm away from home, I think about them and hope they're alright. Mentally, it's hard to switch off.

"The majority of the fellas have partners at home, and know that side of their lives is catered for.

"The pressure is on them. We stand at the same distance, we throw whatever weight of dart you choose. We all have three darts to throw at a round thing on the wall. Physically, there is no difference."

Winstanley is a regular on the BDO circuit but not a full-time professional, a couple of defeats to Anastasia Dobromyslova in the past two quarter-finals of that organisation's World Championship have not done her talent justice as she juggles home life with the desire to make a mark.

The opportunity opened by the PDC to create a Women's Qualifier for their World Championship is the biggest of Winstanley's career, but has not come without its problems.

She is contracted by the BDO and although that does not prohibit her entering the PDC tournament, it could yet cause friction.

"There's been no official statement about whether there will be any consequence of playing in it. [The BDO] haven't said anything at all," Winstanley explained.

"They say 'no news is good news…'

"Realistically it would make good business sense for the BDO to back it, and use it to promote their World Championship - that's how I feel, anyway."

The BDO's top female talents are, nonetheless, expected to chance their hand in PDC.

"It's my choice - it's whether there are consequences off the back of that. I will play."

‍Anastasia Dobromyslova is a three-time BDO champ

The news is revolutionary for the sport but was delivered under the radar.

"I saw somebody post something on Facebook, then went onto the PDC website to see it was real," Winstanley remembered. "You can't believe everything you read on Facebook! There was no inside-information, it came out of the blue.

"It's exciting, isn't it? Majorly exciting. It's a brilliant step forward for ladies' darts."

The qualifiers in November open the opportunity for young pretenders to steal the limelight from veterans like Winstanley, who could feasibly put in the hard yards and not be rewarded by a place at the biggest tournament in the sport.

Winstanley is cautiously aware: "Yes, that could happen. You can only play the person that you're told to play. I need to be on the ball, on top of my game, and hope for the best."

It isn't possible to prepare for every entrant to the qualifier, she admits, but Winstanley will play some of the old faces.

"Yes, some of them, certainly the top ladies. But there is an awful lot of talent out there, who don't do the tours or even play county darts. There is talent that we don't get to see much of, because if they don't travel, then we don't come across each other. There will be dangerous players that we've never heard of."

The prospect of playing Michael van Gerwen potentially awaits, in what would be an astonishing spectacle, but Winstanley is keen to reaffirm that the big-name male players are not a reward in themselves.

"It's an experience that money can't buy. It's so exciting and would be brilliant to get up there. But if we do, it doesn't matter who we face. It's just about getting there.

"I didn't think anything like this would happen.

"The standard of the game has risen so much over the past few years, this is a reward.

"The environment will be so different to what we're used to in the BDO. The PDC is rowdy all the time, and the crowds are much bigger. More razzmatazz, a bigger show. It will be quite scary, but an opportunity that you wouldn't say no to."

‍Ally Pally awaits...

The Women's Qualfiers take place in Dusseldorf on November 17 and Milton Keynes on November 25 - the two winners will be part of the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace which gets underway on December 15 and as usual Sky Sports will cover the whole tournament live.

Darts is back on your Sky Sports screens in September with coverage of the World Grand Prix from Dublin where Daryl Gurney defends his maiden major title at the Citywest Hotel

Seven days of coverage gets underway on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm on Sunday, September 30 and you can follow the unique double-in double-out format right through to the final on Saturday, October 6.

Article by James Dielhenn