It's the question which has plagued the minds of players and fans alike these last 12 months, and there is still no clear answer.
The demise of BDO Enterprises put paid to the Women's World Championships; the pinnacle of the year for elite players on the Tour and one of the few opportunities to gain valuable worldwide exposure. Coupled with the pandemic, which has seen no sport left unaffected, there is no definitive Tour, few diary dates and an uncertain future.
In short, if the world was to open up tomorrow, there is little, if nothing in place dedicated to the Women's game. Speaking to Ben Bloom at The Telegraph, Lisa Ashton, a four-times Women's World Champion and the first woman to secure a PDC Tour Card via Q-School, identified that "right now...ladies' darts is non-existent."
There was a ray of hope in October, by way of the PDC Women's Series. 2018 and 2019 saw the PDC offer two spaces to female players into the William Hill World Championships, decided by a one-day play-off. 2020 saw the PDC extend this to incorporate four competitions, with a prize fund of £20,000, and the addition of a place at Grand Slam of Darts. Ashton an Deta Hedman prevailed to make Alexandra Palace with Ashton also taking the Grand Slam spot. It’s a development that the women are keen to see embraced and extended, by way of an independent Women's Tour within the PDC.
2018 Winmau Women's World Master, Lorraine Winstanley echoes these sentiments. Speaking to WWD, Winstanley told us: 'The PDC put on a fantastic Women's Series, and I am sure I'm not the only one who would love to see more events like this." Winstanley also went on to identify the appeal Women's darts has currently; "The Women's game is growing, especially after the Fallon effect and Lisa [Ashton] winning a tour card. It show the depth the women's game has to offer".
The prospect of a dedicated PDC Women's Tour still seems unlikely, as PDC Chairman Barry Hearn told The Darts Show Podcast back in 2019 "the women have got to be at Q-School, on the Challenge Tour, they've got to play the same price that the men pay and they've got to have the same ability that the men have got."
"If not, tough. If they have, the door is open to you to change your life."
All eyes are ultimately on the World Darts Federation (WDF); following the collapse of the BDO Tour the organisation has taken the initiative under the fresh, new leadership of Chief Development Officer Richard Ashdown and General Secretary Nick Rolls. Ashdown has stated that "one of the the WDF's priorities in the development of a new World Rankings criteria was addressing the disparity between men's and women's events in the past.” "Confusion reigned throughout the circuit as to tournament grading, format and prize money,” he added. “We [the WDF] have been working hard with the member nations to ensure the synergy between the men's and women's events. Ashdown talks about the initiatives already being implemented for when the world opens up enough for the tour to make its return, including "nine newly introduced regional tables for women, with the top player(s) in each qualifying for major events by right. "More opportunities to qualify for and play upon the stage in major events for all nations, with more guaranteed stage time in WDF Open competitions".
The WDF are also addressing tournament grading, so events carry the same weight for both men and women in terms of benefits and importantly, they are looking at the prize monies on offer.
"Previous disparity in prize money will now be addressed" Ashdown explained. "By 2022 we aim to ensure that in every WDF ranked event, the women's prize cannot be less than 50% of the men's in any round where prize money is given to both. If a men's champion receives £2000.00, the women's champion receives a minimum of £1000.00". Excitingly, the WDF also have big plans for a future Women's World Championships with Ashdown confirming "plans are to expand the Women's World Championship in terms of participants, format and prize money and the WDF look forward to launching the new event as soon as possible.”