London-listed bookmaker William Hill has extended its title sponsorship of darts' flagship World Championship tournament until 2022.
The company has sponsored the tournament since 2014, with this year’s event set to be the biggest yet with a record £2.5m prize fund, including £500,000 to the champion.
The introduction of 24 further qualifiers will see the field increase to 96 competitors, with additional professionals joining an expanded group of international qualifiers which will include two female contenders.
"The William Hill World Darts Championship has become a phenomenon in worldwide sport given its incredible growth in recent years, but this announcement takes the tournament to a whole new level," said PDC chairman Barry Hearn.
"The backing of our sponsors William Hill and worldwide broadcasters led by Sky Sports has been matched by the incredible interest from fans who flock to Alexandra Palace every Christmas and watch around the globe.”
Hearn said that the World Championship has grown year-on-year in the decade since its move from the Circus Tavern to Alexandra Palace.
"Moving to 96 players will not only reward more players from our ProTour, with 32 qualifiers joining the world's top 32 players in securing places in the World Championship, but also gives us the opportunity to expand the international qualifiers.
"Our worldwide growth, in particular through our affiliated tours, has seen greater interest than ever for spots from around the globe as emerging players battle to compete on the biggest stage in darts,” Hearn added. “Combined with the leading professional talents in darts, rising stars from around the world and new faces who win through the qualifiers, this promises to be an incredible tournament and a feast of festive darts for fans either at Ally Pally or watching the tournament later this year.”
Grant Williams, managing director of William Hill Online, commented: "We're delighted to extend our sponsorship of the World Darts Championship. We have a great relationship with Barry Hearn and his team at the PDC and we're thrilled to continue this partnership until at least 2022."