Historically, darts was seen as a well-known ‘pub game’ that had a strong association with working men’s clubs and grotty boozers, played mainly by men of an above average size. No one truly recognised darts as a sport, and the small crowds and weak financial backing showed the lack of respect that it received.
This was despite the game being played all across Britain, and undoubtedly requiring a lot of skill and concentration to play to a high standard. There was most certainly potential for darts to grow, and as years went by, this potential was realised.
Despite not becoming an officially recognised sport by Sport England until 2005, darts continuously grew ever since the infamous split in the game that formed two organisations: the British Darts Organisation (BDO) and the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). One pioneer who carried and the sport on his back for the best part of his illustrious 30-year career was Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. He was a founding member of the PDC and he alone, whilst winning every tournament in the game multiple times, attracted many more viewers and sponsors that helped the game to grow bigger and bigger.
The PDC World Championship, a fortnight of the highest quality tungsten played over the Christmas and New Year period, is the flagship darts event these days, and since its move to Alexandra Palace in 2007, there has been a steep rise in the number of tickets sold and the tournament’s prize money. In the 2015/16 World Championship, 65,000 of the 66,000 tickets available were sold out within 24 hours, and the final attracted 1.7 million viewers in the UK, showing just how much darts has grown from a ‘pub game’ to a popular, exciting sport.
As many as 132 countries showed some form of PDC darts in 2017, and with more likely to follow suit, the game is truly going global. Barry Hearn, chairman of the PDC, is another man to thank for the emergence of darts. He realised the potential growth of the sport, and provided the financial support to ensure that it met and exceeded its potential. The 2018 World Darts Champion, Rob ‘Voltage’ Cross, scooped the top prize of £400,000, and this is set to increase to a record £500,000 for the upcoming 2019 event. The sky is truly the limit for the sport that is going from strength to strength.