Over the last few months I have been asked by people in all walks of life — from painters to publishers, publicans to policemen — why is darts so HOT now? Well I reckon we got the answer in full pulsating tungsten Technicolour on Thursday night at Bournemouth in the Holsten Premier Darts League.
Before describing the events and the atmosphere of ‘Barney’s Benefit Night’, let me briefly take you back to the glory days of the mid-1980s and the essence of the first darts boom. When 100-1 outsider, milk drinking Keith Deller beat Brissy in the 1983 Embassy final, 8.5 million telly viewers were enrapt. The scenario was pure David and Goliath. The John Lowe 9-dart in 1984 emphasised the skill factor in our sport, and whenever Jocky met Eric or the magical Alan Evans, sparks and 180s flew in torrents. Then we had tragedy in the mix as Bristow’s prime was blighted by dartitis.
The ingredients were fascinating: working class gladiators, mighty egos…and more than a soupcon of booze. It was like Shakespeare had written his dramas all about the racy world of Falstaff and pushed the kings and queens into the background. And on commentary I tried to tell it like it was, ‘It’s like the Colosseum at Rome when the Christians were on the menu.’
So let’s consider the new Darts Boom and its high profile on Sky Sports.
It can be measured in several ways. In the middle of the last World Championship we got 800,000 sets tuned to darts on Sky, which, taking into account groups of viewers in pub and clubs, could add up to 3 million. Then just look at the hot ticket that is the Premier League: 3000 fans snapped up the places at Bournemouth and they could have sold another 6000. Tickets were going on E bay for £400 the pair.
And why do the fans want to flock to a tournament where the stars are so well matched that a draw is often the likely result? Imagine the football Premiership with a similar scenario. P45s would be winging their way to Mourinho and Wenger if they were producing nothing but draw merchants.
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