Leyland has stepped up to the oche by agreeing to sponsor 2008 BDO world champion Mark Webster and 2010 PDC world championship runner-up Simon Whitlock for the whole of the 2012 season, as the pair bid to cement their statuses as household names in the sport.
With more than 200,000 sports fans inside the arenas along with a television audience of 12.5 million viewers in 2010 alone, the brand believes that the time has never been better to target the tungsten for a sustained period.
Marketing manager Sharon Hendry said: “The potential of our darts sponsorship is absolutely huge and we are thrilled to be involved with the sport.
“Aside from Premier League football, the darts world championship drew the biggest audience on Sky Sports last year, which underlines how powerful the sport is.
“Simon and Mark are firm crowd favourites already and we are thrilled to be working with from now on.”
Before turning professional, Simon was a builder by trade, while Mark Webster is a professional plumber and still likes to keep busy working in between tournaments.
Simon, known as The Wizard, said: “I am delighted to receive the support from Leyland. I have come across their product from my time as a builder, so it is great to be working even closer with brand from now on.
“I’ll be doing all I can to gain maximum exposure by winning as many tournaments as possible!”
Mark Webster, from Denbigh, Wales, said: “I have been in the Professional Darts Corporation for over two years now, and even in that time I have seen the sport grow so much.”
The current world number six added: “For me to be able to receive the backing of Leyland is the best news I could wish for. They are a huge paint brand and one I will be wearing on my shirt with pride.”
Aside from the sponsorship itself, both Simon and Mark will be making a number of personal appearances for Leyland, while incentives throughout the year mean customers will get the chance to see the pair play at future televised tournaments.
Sharon concluded: “More than 20 per cent of the UK’s population were exposed to darts in 2010 and it is now regarded as the second most popular sport on Sky behind football.
“With all this in mind, we couldn’t be more excited to be involved with Simon and Mark, who we will be cheering on from now on!”
Leyland’s sponsorship of the two players will officially kick-off at the World Championships in December at the Alexandra Palace, London.
However, Mark Webster will be wearing the Leyland branding on his shirt even sooner than that, at the Players’ Championship from December 8.
The Welsh left-hander, who won the 2008 Lakeside Championship, booked his place in the final at the Doncaster Dome with another assured display as he chases the £60,000 first prize.
He hit 180s in winning the first two legs before posting double ten in the third to leave Newton reeling at 3-0 down.
The Fleetwood ace hit tops to get off the mark in the fourth, and hit scores of 177 and 180 in the next to set up a potential nine-darter.
Although he was unable to achieve a perfect leg, he took out 86 for a 12-dart finish to pull back to 3-2.
Webster, though, hit a 168 to set up double ten in winning the sixth, and added tops to lead 5-2 before Newton posted two 180s and double 16 to reply.
The pair traded 180s in the ninth, with Webster’s maximum leaving 67 but only able to watch as Newton produced a 138 checkout on double nine to pull back to 5-4.
He was crucially unable to level, though, with Webster hitting double ten to edge away and 180 in setting up double nine to lead 7-4.
Newton hit double ten to win two of the next three legs, but a miss at tops for a 110 finish allowed Webster to move a leg away from victory at 9-6.
Webster would miss tops in the next, for a 106 finish, as Newton posted double eight to stay in the contest, but even a 180 from the UK Open runner-up was not enough to continue the fightback as the Welshman sealed victory on double ten.
“My finishing was pretty sharp and I’m delighted to be through,” said Webster. “I had a little bit of luck but I’ve not beaten Wes for a while so it’s nice to end that run.
“Hopefully I can go on to win the final now.”
Newton admitted: “It’s disappointing for me and I felt that the little things didn’t go my way and I wasn’t able to gain any momentum. I came back into it after the start, but Mark did well and never let me get on level terms.”
MARK WEBSTER edged a dramatic 17-leg thriller with Dave Chisnall to win through to the semi-finals of the Cash Converters Players Championship in a tight last eight contest.
Chisnall, seeking to reach his first major PDC semi-final, led 3-1 early on but saw the lead slip away as Webster took five successive legs to move into a 7-4 lead.
He also took an 8-5 lead but was unable to close out victory as Chisnall clawed his way back to level, before Webster finally secured the win with his 11th match dart.
“It was scrappy at times but it was an exciting game too and I’m glad to be through,” said Webster, who now plays Wes Newton in the semis.
“I’d have kicked myself if I’d lost that after being in that position but I scraped through and I’ll prepare for the semis now. I’m getting back on the practice board and will work on my doubles a bit.”
Webster hit a 180 in the game’s opening leg, but Chisnall replied in kind before landing double 18 to lead.
Webster landed another maximum in the second, levelling on double two, but Chisnall finished 66 and 74 on double top to win the next two and move 3-1 up.
Tops gave Webster a second leg, but Chisnall landed the same double to win the next following four misses from the Welshman and take a 4-2 cushion.
Webster, though, continued the clinical finishing on tops to hit the bed in winnning the next four legs as he turned a two leg deficit into a two leg lead, and he then hit a 180 and a 100 finish in a 12-darter to move 7-4 up.
Chisnall hit back on double 16 and hit a 180 in being first to a finish in the 13th leg – but he crucially missed seven darts at a double before Webster stepped in on tops to move a leg away from victory.
The St Helens ace opened the next with back-to-back 180s, but after seeing a potential nine-darter go begging he suffered further double trouble to give Webster his chance to take the win.
The Welshman, though, was unable to capitalise with one dart at tops and three on the wire of double ten, with Chisnall posting double two to stay alive.
When Webster missed double 12, six and three to take victory in the 16th leg Chisnall again stepped in, this time taking out 68 on tops to force a decider.
However, Chisnall’s trebles deserted him in his first four visits to the oche as Webster moved clear.
The St Helens man then posted a 180, but it came in vain as Webster returned from three more missed match darts to hit double five and finally reach the semis.
“I’m disappointed to have lost but it was a great game,” said Chisnall. “It took my a while to get going and when I got my scoring going it flowed for me but I was unlucky with a few doubles.”
Wade earned a deserved victory over Steve Brown, while Webster disposed of top seed Justin Pipe in a dramatic affair.
Both players are back in action in the quarter finals on Sunday, when one of them could pick up the trophy.
James Wade 8 – 6 Steve Brown
James Wade progressed into the last eight of the Players Championship with victory over Steve ‘The Bomber’ Brown.
The UK Open winner showed only glimpses of his brilliant best, but still had too much for his opponent.
Wade was as deadly as ever on double ten to take the first leg, but Brown hit back, taking out 64 to win the second.
The next leg again went with the throw, as Wade put himself back in front. He then grabbed an early break, hitting double top to open up a two leg lead.
The Machine hit his first 180 in leg five, and went on to win it with a nice 106 checkout as he threatened to run away with it.
Wade almost took out a spectacular 170 in the next leg, just missing the bull, before Brown hit double ten to get his self back into the game.
Brown then managed to break back to reduce Wade’s lead to a single leg, but The Machine pulled off a stunning 142 finish to open the gap once more.
Wade’s lead quickly increased to 6-3 with a 60 checkout, before Brown hit double one to pull a leg back.
Wade then produced a leg of real quality, as he finished on double 12 in just a dozen darts. Brown earned a stay of execution when he hit double top to take the twelfth leg.
The Bomber threatened to make it more than just that by breaking the throw in the next leg, but Wade inflicted his punishment by breaking straight back to secure a fairly comfortable win.
Wade faces Scott Rand in Sunday afternoon’s quarter final.
Mark Webster 8 – 7 Justin Pipe
Mark Webster held his nerve to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against number one seed Justin Pipe.
Webster, seemingly undeterred by his opponent’s unusually slow style, won a nail-biting last leg decider and progressed into the quarter finals.
Webster suffered an early setback when Pipe broke his throw in the opening leg, but he took out 80 to break straight back.
Webster successfully returned to double ten to win the third leg before Pipe levelled things up.
The Welshman edged ahead again, holding his throw to take leg five before Pipe restored parity. It was Pipe who got the break, hitting bull to take a 4-3 lead.
Pipe then hit double 18 to open up a two leg lead for the first time, but Webster bounced back by taking out 64 to win the ninth leg.
Webster then inflicted a big blow on his opponent, a former boxer, by hitting eight perfect darts against the throw. He just missed out on a stunning nine dart finish, but cleaned up to level the score.
The world number six hit double top to win the next leg, but was unlucky to bust his score by hitting the wrong double when going for a break of throw before Pipe took out 101 to square the score at six all.
Webster missed four darts at double six allowing Pipe to break and leave himself throwing for the match.
Pipe then missed four darts at doubles and Webster duly punished him, hitting double five with the last dart in his hand.
In a tense last leg, Pipe missed two more darts for the match and Webster took out 60 to ensure that it was the Spider who claimed eight legs.
Webster will face Dave Chisnall in the quarter finals on Sunday afternoon.