What initially started out as a pub game has grown in such rapid popularity in the 20th century that competition and skill level to play the game are not at an elite level when it comes to human performance and a high level of competition.
Mental focus, dexterity, accuracy, consistency, and an ability to handle nerves on the largest stage are all characteristics that the top professional dart players possess at an elite level. As the high standard of play has grown in recent years, many wonder whether or not darts are considered to be a sport?
Is darts a sport? Yes, darts is considered to be a sport as a result of its competitive standard, a high level of skill is needed to compete, and it serves as entertainment for audiences and paying supporters. Whilst many consider darts to be a sport, it is not classed as an Olympic sport.
This is one of darts most debated topics and it surprisingly divides opinions between those who believe it is a sport and those who don’t. In this article, I’ll cover whether darts is a sport and what the evidence is to support this (if there is any that is…).
Is Darts a Sport
The question of whether or not darts is a sport is not as simple or straightforward of an answer as what you might think. Darts has always been thought of as a working-class pub game (with emphasis on game) that is typically played by overweight people who just want something fun to play while getting drunk.
This has certainly been true in the UK but it’s a dated opinion. The level and skill that is involved in the modern darts game are at a very high level of human performance.
Focus, accuracy, precision, consistency, and finesse are all skills that are on display by the top dart professionals and even the top county and circuit players.
We are even at a stage with darts where darts players are drug tested to ensure a level playing field an fair competition due to the high standards of play in the modern game.
The same can be true for other “games” though with snooker, chess, and even poker displaying high-level performance (though not in the athletic sense) so what grounds do darts have to be classed as a sport?
What Makes a Sport a Sport
OK, that’s a bit of a tongue twister for a heading but for all of the arguments about what should be considered a sport (or a game) it’s important to look into some well-known definitions for what a sport actually is.
According to the English Oxford dictionary, a sport is:
“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
By this definition, it would be easy to consider darts to be a sport. There is clear competition both on an individual level and also in the form of teams. This is true from a local pub team all the way through to international teams.
In terms of entertainment, darts has grown in popularity since the 1980s at an astonishing rate. Viewership for the PDC finals has reached just short of 4,000,000 viewers in both 2015 and 2020 and the atmosphere at the darts is well known for being one of the most fun and entertaining of any sport. Just look at this video below to help appreciate the entertainment value in darts.
The Cambridge dictionary defines a sport as:
“A game, competition, or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job.”
For this definition, it’s clear that dart players require a high level of skill to throw with accuracy and consistency but what is most significant about this definition is playing for enjoyment and/or as a job.
There is a clear split in darts between amateur players and those that play professionally as the governing body Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) is strictly for professional players.
There are other definitions that further help define darts as a sport and while you could argue that it is a sport based on these definitions for an eternity, there comes a point when you need to consider whether or not darts are officially considered a sport.
Is Darts Officially a Sport
Darts are not “officially” considered a sport by the leading governing bodies for sport. If you are wondering what that means, it basically means that certain organizations need to accept darts as a sport by their own criteria.
This might seem unusual after we have just covered definitions that clearly indicate that darts is a sport, but when it comes to organizations deciding whether or not something can be considered to be a sport, it will usually come down to the stage for which something is universally considered to be a sport….
Should Darts Be an Olympic Sport
While we can’t say with 100% certainty that darts is a sport, there is a good enough argument through multiple definitions that enough people would be happy to say that yes, darts is a sport. The jury is out, however, as to whether or not darts players can be considered athletes.
Darts has been hotly debated for a place in the Olympic games for a number of years now, however, we are still yet to see it appear on arguably the world’s greatest sporting stage. Besides the above-mentioned issues with the public opinion on darts, there are some other issues holding it back.
Firstly, the World Darts Federation (WDF) is the governing body for darts but it does not include the professional players which are governed separately by the PDC. Without a universal governing body, how can it be decided who enters the Olympics?
The WDF would be the governing body but would there be much point entering if the best players in the world (PDC players that is) won’t even be there to compete?
Well, there has been an agreement made between these organizations and there is an Olympic submission being made to the committee which if successful, could see darts being played at the Olympics (more on that shortly).
Secondly, many believe that darts do not belong in the Olympics for entertainment purposes and the argument is quite valid. For a lot of players, the prize money and competition at the PDC finals at Alexandra Palace will always be the main aim.
Not all sports are well suited to the Olympics and football/soccer and basketball are two such sports. The leagues and competitions for these sports are the main motivation and form of entertainment for both the players and fans.
While players will of course want to represent their country and win, the competition pales in comparison to their annual leagues and tournaments both from an entertainment and competitive viewpoint. I follow both of those sports and the atmosphere, hype, competition, and interest is low.
Many feel that darts would be the same scenario and for all the anticipation of it becoming an Olympic sport, who will really be looking forward to it as much as they would a 9-darter at the Ally Pally? My guess is not many.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the Olympic committee is considering darts for the 2024 Olympic games so there’s a good possibility that we could see
Darts has evolved over the years and what started out as a traditional pub game has since become a highly competitive and entertaining sport.
Even if some people do not class it as a sport and feel that dart players are not athletes or are too fat, It’s becoming harder to argue against it with each passing year and it’s only a matter of time before we see darts at the Olympic games