The World Darts Championship will have at least two female qualifiers after the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) announced an expanded field of 96 and a record prize purse for the 2018/19 tournament.
This year’s edition of the flagship darts tournament, which is due to be held at Alexandra Palace in London, will see the introduction of 24 further qualifiers to allow additional professionals to join an expanded group of international qualifiers.
Female players have previously been afforded the same chance as male players, with no boundaries set on qualification, but now at least two of the 96 spots will go to women following the introduction of a UK and a Rest of the World Qualifier.
Gayl King and Anastasia Dobromyslova have previously featured in the competition, while China's Momo Zhou won the country's qualifier to feature in the World Cup of Darts on the weekend, becoming only the second ever woman to feature at the event.
The expanded World Darts Championship will offer a record UK£2.4 million (US$3.2 million) prize fund, with UK£500,000 (US$668,000) going to the 2018/19 champion.
Barry Hearn, chairman of the PDC, said: “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.”
"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.”
Meanwhile, William Hill will continue to title sponsor the World Darts Championship until 2022.
The betting company has been a sponsor of the tournament since 2014, and also sponsored the Grand Slam of Darts from 2011 to 2014.
This year's World Darts Championship will begin on 13th December, finishing with the New Year's Day final, when Rob Cross will be defending his title.