JELLE KLAASEN and Wayne Mardle will complete the eight-strong line-up when the 2009 Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts gets under way at the ECHO arena next month.
The duo have been picked as the two wildcard selections for the £400,000 tournament and join the top six players from the PDC Order of Merit - Phil Taylor, James Wade, Raymond van Barneveld, John Part, Terry Jenkins and Mervyn King.
Last year’s Premier League proved to be a major hit, with Liverpool attracting the biggest attendance for a darts match in the UK for over 25 years.
Another capacity 8,000 crowd is expected at the ECHO arena for the opening night on Thursday, February 5.
Klaasen, the 2006 Lakeside champion and a quarter-finalist in the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship recently, is a newcomer to the Premier League.
The 24-year-old Dutchman celebrated his second year in the PDC by moving up to 25th in the Order of Merit, qualifying for the Blue Square UK Open, Las Vegas Desert Classic and European Championship before starring at Alexandra Palace.
He dropped only one set in wins over Colin Lloyd, Jan van der Rassel and Andy Hamilton before van Barneveld ended his hopes in the last eight.
“I’m delighted to be involved,” said Klaasen. “Behind the World Championship, the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts is one of the biggest tournaments to be involved in.
“It’s the top six players and you play each other twice, and for me it’s brilliant because I will get so much experience of playing on stage and in front of such big crowds.”
Mardle, ranked eighth in the PDC Order of Merit, returned to the Premier League in 2008 and narrowly missing out on a play-off place on the final league night.
A finalist in two Las Vegas Desert Classics and the World Matchplay, as well as a five-time World Championship semi-finalist, Mardle said: “I am over the moon. You’re playing in front of amazing crowds, who love the darting entertainment and all the stresses and pleasures that go with it - and I think it works for me!
“Hopefully I’ll give them loads to cheer about and I can’t wait for the first week in Liverpool.”
PDC chairman Barry Hearn said: “Both Jelle and Wayne will make this the most exciting field yet for the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts.
“I can’t wait for it to kick off next month, and I’m sure neither can the nearly 80,000 fans who will pack into venues around the UK in the next four months.”
The Premier League will tour 14 cities around the country before the play-offs are held at Wembley arena on Monday, May 25.
World champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor will be looking to defend his title and is a big favourite to claim the £125,000 first prize.
There are a limited number of tickets priced £20 still available for the opening night at the ECHO arena.
For further details call 0844 8000 400 or log on to: www.accliverpool.com
Jan 13 2009 by James Pearce, Liverpool Echo