There is probably no topic in darts that is discussed as controversially as the Premier League every year. In addition to the frequently changing mode, it is above all the field of participants that ensures a lively exchange of opinions by the time the event is announced in January at the latest – this year more vigorously than in a long time.

“Ridiculous,” commented Vincent van der Voort after the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) announced their selection for this year’s Premier League in the Dutch media on Monday morning: “I rate it as a sportsman, but the PDC seems to be an entertainment company being. They show their worst side.”

Only the top four in the world rankings, this year Michael Smith, Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price, qualify for the financially lucrative series of events. The other four participants will be selected by the organization in cooperation with the British TV broadcaster Sky. And so the choice fell on the Welshman Jonny Clayton (sixth in the world rankings), the Englishmen Nathan Aspinall (nine) and Chris Dobey (21), as well as Dimitri van den Bergh (eleven) from Belgium.

“I’m disappointed in my absence from the Premier League. To be honest, I don’t think that’s justified. It’s basically a kick in the balls,” wrote last year’s finalist Joe Cullen: “I feel like I deserve a chance after coming within a millimeter of winning the Premier League final last year. It’s a tough day. But I’m certainly not the only player who feels like this.”

Indeed, number twelve on the Order of Merit was in good company. With Luke Humphries, even number five in the ranking was not taken into account. A total of four players from the top ten are missing from the compilation, including the reigning UK Open champion Danny Noppert, after all the eight in the world. “Danny has also reached the semi-finals of the World Matchplay and is much higher in the world rankings than Chris Dobey. You can’t explain that, can you?” van der Voort jumped to his compatriot’s side.

No one was more surprised than Humphries after the announcement. “I cannot deny that I am very disappointed not to have been invited to Premier League Darts. I worked incredibly hard in 2022 to get great results,” Humphries wrote, citing, “Five ranked titles and two major semi-finals. I can only say that I am incredibly proud of my achievements, even if it now seems that it wasn’t enough.”

Resentment and disappointment that illustrate the importance of the one million pound traveling circus. Even Ross Smith had hoped despite his ranking position 17: “As the reigning European champion and the world’s best 180 thrower in the second half of 2022, I’m obviously very disappointed that I can’t take part. But I respect the decision and wish all players the best of luck.” So does Dimitri van den Bergh, who to his own surprise was nominated by the PDC: “Are you people really serious about that?” tweeted the Belgian after the announcement.

On Thursday (live on Sport1 and DAZN) the first of 17 match days is already on the program in Belfast, and some had hoped in vain that Gabriel Clemens would be the first German to be invited to the series of events. “I think they would have liked to have had him there because of the German television market,” Unkt van der Voort, “but then he would have had to go far in the Masters. It didn’t come to that and they really would have had to take a lot of criticism if they recorded it anyway. That goes too far even for the PDC.”

Not really. Clemens is two places higher in the Order of Merit than Dobey, who will make his Premier League debut against Peter Wright in Northern Ireland.

Dimitri Van den Bergh – Jonny Clayton

Michael Smith – Michael van Gerwen

Peter Wright – Chris Dobey

Nathan Aspinall – Gerwyn Price