If you are reading this, chances are you are wondering how darts went from being a pub game that was usually made fun of, into something that is constantly making its way onto our TV screens.
Is darts popular? If so, when did it happen?
Darts is a popular and growing sport. While darts was once considered a hobby or pub-based game, it has seen a huge growth in terms of professional players, viewership, prize money, active nations, and is even considered a sport with the potential to be introduced at the Olympics.
In this article, I’ll cover how darts has evolved over the years from something that was once considered a casual game you’d play in a pub to a worldwide sport that is showing even more potential for growth as online play and overseas tournaments are opening up the game to more audiences and players than ever before!
Brief History Of Darts
Darts are one of the indoor games that any player can enjoy, experienced or new. It has seven centuries of history. From the medieval throwing dart, this weapon had slowly but surely evolved with darts becoming a sport.
Later on, these throwing darts turned into Fléchettes, a game that uses carved wood with real feathers and metal tips. This development is followed by Puff darts, which is the closest thing to darts that we have today.
When metal refinery improved during the industrial era, the production of metal darts became standard. This period is also where players implemented the single, double, and treble. Soon, the game became popular in England’s biggest pubs. This popularity then made darts more popular in other countries.
With its booming popularity, more and more people play the game. During the 1960s, England started to do televised dart competitions, further making the game popular worldwide. The competitive darts scene is run by both the British Darts Organisation and the Professional Darts Council.
Competitive darts started when the British Darts Organisation decided to give prize money to the winners.
Leighton Rees from Wales was the first-ever professional champion and received £3,000. As of now, the prize pool can even reach £500,000. Since then, more standards about the darts and the boards were implemented to even the playing field.
Professional Darts Corporation or PDC hosts different competitions around the world. This includes the PDC World Darts Championship, the World Matchplay, the Premier League, the UK Open, and the Grand Slam. Some of the top names in PDC are Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright, and Gary Anderson.
Online Darts Playing
With the improvement in darts technology, software, and apps, dart tournaments are now also held online.
Since 2020, the PDC decided to hold its championships online. To make this more interactive, there are websites that offer betting options for players online. The third tournament for the Unibet Home Tour had just finished in December 2020.
Another brewing online playing option when it comes to darts is the Darts Esports. People are able to compete with each other online. Darts fanbases are now becoming more and more relevant and gain record-high new players because of this. But before you can join, you need to set up the camera, dartboard, and streaming or call setup.
Either way, online darts are expanding in popularity and competition to all-time highs and not just from a professional player perspective. Amateur players can play anyone worldwide on sites like Dart Connect and Webcam Darts.
Where Is Darts Most Popular?
Countries like Canada, Japan, and Spain have a great dart fanbase and are often overlooked because they don’t have a large representation when it comes to professional players. In terms of active players though, these countries are surprisingly avid dart players (with Japan, in particular, having a huge fanbase)
Other countries outside Europe have loyal dart followings as well. However, when it comes to playing it competitively, most top competitors come from the United Kingdom and surrounding nations. Some of these countries are the Netherlands (inspired by the likes of Raymond Van Barneveld and Michael Van Gerwen), Republic of Ireland, Austria, Germany, Northern Ireland, and Belgium.
Australia also got some big names in the pro games, such as Simon Whitlock and Tony David. Scottish players like Gary Anderson and Peter Wright once held the World Cup in their hands. And Wales also has powerhouses like Gerwyn Price, Jonny Clayton, and Nick Kelly. These countries have representatives in PDC’s order of merit.
Countries With The Most Top Players
As of now, the best dart players according to PDC’s merit order are Gerwyn Price from Wales, Michael van Gerwen from the Netherlands, and Peter Wright from Scotland. These players have over £1,000,000 winnings under their belt and continue to remain on the top of the dart profession. In fact, all of them have a world record for the highest dart averages.
However, even without any major names on the PDC ranking, England is still one of the best darts nations in the world. The country has the largest number of professional dart players. If you look at the PDC Order of Merit for the last two years, almost half of the pro players are from England.
In addition, it is estimated that over 119,000 people are playing or have played darts at some point between 2006 to 2016. Unfortunately, the interest in darts in England has been declining since 2018. Other countries like the US are becoming more and more interested in this game. Software for online dart tournaments is even being developed for online use as mentioned earlier.
As for US players, the country is one of the biggest dart participants. But why are there no top players coming from the country? Let’s discuss the matter below.
Is Darts Popular In America?
Darts is a very popular indoor sport in the US. In fact, there are a lot of pub dart players that casually hone their skills in different pubs and bars. According to The Guardian, there are an estimated 17 million dart players in the US. With that big of a number, why is it that no American dart master is on the top, or in the ranking of the PDC?
The answer might be in the number of people who seriously consider sports as an actual sport where you can earn money and pay your bills. It doesn’t have a serious money-making opportunity as football or basketball does. Another possible reason is that most players are only exposed to this sport during their senior years.
Most players tend to focus on other things and make the game just a hobby.
Karl Remick from the American Darters Association or ADA stated that there are only about 117 professional dart players in the association. This is out of 100,000 total active members. Additionally, most American league players play cricket, which is not easy to televise and ends quickly.
However, with the continued growth of the sport, both the ADA and American Darts Organization (ADO) can finally make a combined effort to make this sport a powerhouse in the American sporting world.
Will Darts Continue To Grow?
The growth of darts all over the world is expected to continue in the following couple of years. In fact, PDC had actually been expanding on new markets since 2018. Darts events are becoming more and more popular online, as well. But in most countries like the US, the growth might not reach its competitive scene, but on the casual player market instead.
Darts have slowly (very slowly) been growing in popularity since the 1980s. Between 2000 – 2010, darts became more professional, increased its prize money on offer, had more television deals, competitions became more competitive and the professional standard reached elite levels (not that the standard was not high before).
The standard has continued to grow at an unbelievable rate and more players worldwide are getting involved in darts. With the introduction and enhancement of online darts a decade later (2020 onwards), there’s now no limit to how big and popular darts can become in the coming years.
If, as expected, darts make their way into the Olympics one day, you can be sure that the popularity is set to explode!