Mervyn King was today threatened with legal action by the British Darts Organisation, after confirming he is switching to play on the rival Professional Darts Corporation circuit.
The former World Masters champion is following three top Dutch players belonging to the same management company – Michael van Gerwen, Jelle Klaasen and Vincent van der Voort – who also contested this year’s Lakeside World Championship, before crossing the sport’s bitter divide.
But the 40-year-old from Great Yarmouth is bound to the BDO under the terms of a contract he signed, stating that any player who reached the semi-finals at the Lakeside this year would return to contest the event in 2008. King was beaten in the last four by eventual champion Martin Adams.
Klaasen is also contractually committed to the BDO – having signed an agreement stating that, as winner of the title in 2006, he would play at the Lakeside for the following three years.
Both players could now be the subject of legal action by the BDO, who also lost new Ladbrokes.com world champion Raymond van Barneveld to the PDC last year.
“We will be seeing our legal people tomorrow, with regard to Klaasen and King,” BDO spokesman Robert Holmes told PA Sport.
“We must protect our championship, system and players.”
Holmes insisted during last month’s Lakeside World Championship that King had told him he would “rather pack up darts than join the PDC”, and the player referred all questions about his future – including during a heated BBC interview with Ray Stubbs – to the BDO representative.
“We are very disappointed in Mervyn King, because we respect him as a person and a player,” said Holmes.
“We believed what he told us at the Lakeside.
“We received a hand-written letter from him today in which he thanks the BDO for providing the system in which he has been playing but that he wants to move to the PDC to further his career.”
In a press release issued by the PDC, the two-time world championship runner-up said: “It’s a new challenge for me. It’s a frightening prospect, but an exciting one.
“I’m looking to further my career and I have noticed for a couple of years the strength in depth of the PDC. I want to be a part of that and move forward with it in the coming years.”
King will compete alongside Phil Taylor, Colin Lloyd, Wayne Mardle and Peter Manley in the England team for the Masters of Darts tournament in Holland next week.
He is expected to make his debut on the PDC Pro Tour in the Blue Square UK Open South-East Regional Final in London at the start of March.
“We are delighted to welcome Mervyn into the PDC ranks,” said PDC chairman Barry Hearn.
“He is a quality player capable of winning major tournaments and has proved by joining the PDC that he has the ambition and desire to compete against the best players in the world on the game’s biggest stages.”
Despite the fifth high-profile departure in 12 months, Holmes is confident the BDO will survive.
“The defections are not all the same way – we have just been told Shayne Burgess and Steve Coote are returning to the BDO from the PDC,” said Holmes.
“The BBC have sufficient faith in our product that they have committed to televising the Lakeside World Championship until 2010.
“We create players; we don’t buy them. We always produce the goods. That’s proven by Jelle Klaasen and Phil Nixon coming from nowhere to reach the Lakeside final in the last two years.
“It shows that anyone can go from throwing darts in their local pub to playing in front of five million people at prime time on a Sunday evening.”