Darts is traditionally a pub game and though the increased tv coverage and high standard of play are turning it into more of a serious sport, there are still some aspects of the game that make darts very much unique.
One particular aspect of darts is that there is no requirement for a player to be sober. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, and league games up and down the country (in the UK) are usually played whilst drinking pints of beer.
The intriguing question though since the drinking of alcohol on televised games has been banned is can dart players drink alcohol.
In amateur leagues and tournaments, dart players can drink alcohol and this is common practice in most countries. For professional darts players, however, drinking during a televised game has been banned on stage since 1989, though professional darts players can consume alcohol before a game and during breaks.
Darts has changed drastically over the years from a game that, let’s be honest, was mocked by the general public in the 1980s to a sport that demands the highest level of skill, focus, and mental strength with large prize money and sponsorship deals on offer.
Darts has always been a game that is associated with alcohol but the change in rules and overall attitude toward drinking alcohol at the highest level has certainly changed.
Can Dart Players Drink Alcohol
Most dart players can drink alcohol during a game. Unlike most amateur sports where alcohol consumption would severely affect athletic performance (despite the belief that you can play better when intoxicated) and also be seriously frowned upon, darts is one in which it’s generally accepted.
This is true, however, only for amateur games and leagues that are held in pubs/bars/venues. For any form of professional, televised, or sponsored tournament, darts players cannot drink alcohol.
This used to be an accepted practice however in 1989, the BDO banned alcohol on stage during games and since that decision, darts has gone on to keep some strict rules in place regarding alcohol consumption.
With the increased popularity, large price money, a bigger sponsorship presence (especially from places you might not expect like betting companies), and a desire by organization leaders to continue to push professionalism into the sport in a bid to ensure it’s classed as a “serious sport”, darts players rarely now drink alcohol.
While alcohol consumption is banned from the public eye, I’m not saying that dart players don’t drink during games. The days of downing pints of beer on stage might be long gone but there are still plenty of dart players that consume alcohol in the player’s bar around games.
While no-one knows just how many players drink before games, there are strong suggestions from former and current players that the vast majority of dart players still drink before games. Jelle Klaasen (well known to be teetotal) even claimed that only 2 or 3 of the top 32 don’t drink alcohol before or during a game.
Alcohol in darts has strangely always been something that players believe improves their performance when playing on the nerve-racking main stage.
Does Drinking Alcohol Make You a Better Darts Player
Darts has always been a working man’s game played mainly in pubs, the association with alcohol was, therefore, something that went hand in hand. It did however play a strange dual purpose in that the majority of players (both amateur and professional) believe that alcohol improves their performance.
While stated earlier, alcohol is shown to negatively impact athletic performance, darts are something of an exception. While drinking alcohol obviously doesn’t enhance your skill, many consume it before games in order to relax and steady nerves.
Nerves in darts can turn a world-class player with a 90+ darts average into a basic pub player that can’t pin down a double.
Shaking hands, tensing up, and concentrating too much are some of the consequences of nerves and completely ruin a smooth and steady throw that has been developed of thousands of hours of practice and games.
Alcohol is, therefore, something countless players consume to steady these nerves and stay relaxed on stage. Controversially, Co Stompe even called for a ban on alcohol completely from the game as he claims it’s a form of doping.
He said it should be that needs to be classed as doping as is the case in other sports and is tested for during and around games.
Youngsters coming through the ranks don’t rely on alcohol to play on the big stage as it has never been in their culture to do so. The more seasoned players however rely on alcohol as a relaxant and performance booster.
Former BDO world champion Andy Fordham famously drank a hip flask of brandy and a staggering 24 pack of pilsner on his way to the championship. That is an unbelievable amount for most people who will typically see their performance start to decline after 3 – 5 pints.
The truth is that research shows alcohol has no noticeable improvement in performance in darts. It can steady nerves which is something many believe needs to be addressed at the highest level with the use of professional coaches and psychiatrists but it cannot make players any better.
Do Professional Darts Players Drink
Most professional darts players in the modern game do tend to drink alcohol. There are some exceptions of course but there are countless stories and reports of players drinking in the player’s lounge before games and during intermissions.
In the modern game though, there is no denying that alcohol consumption in the professional game has decreased for a number of reasons:
- Changing trends – Drinking alcohol is a lot less fashionable these days than it was in the 1960 – 1970s when darts first rose in popularity. Globally, fewer people consume alcohol in total as a result of changing trends and younger darts professionals simply do not have the habit of drinking while playing.
- Public Image – With larger sponsorship deals, more media attention, and the presence of social media, professional darts players need to set a better “image” in the modern game. For darts to be taken more seriously as a sport, drinking on the professional stage has had to make way.
- Playing standard – As a result of the larger prize money and an overall higher standard of competition, alcohol is no longer seen as something to help dart players hold their nerve on the stage, it’s now a disadvantage to some. Players need to be fully focused and on top of their game at all times and alcohol has a negative impact on this.
It’s a slow change and will likely be a good number of years before more players don’t drink alcohol while playing that than those that do, for the meantime though, a lot of professional darts players still drink while playing.
Alcohol consumption may be banned on the stage in darts but it’s not something that is banned from the sport completely. Many professional players can (and do) drink alcohol before games and during the break/intermission as a way to relax and steady any nerves.
While trends are changing, drinking alcohol during games is something that is still very common in the sport and it’s also something that many feel is holding the game back from getting the respect and recognition that it deserves.