Darts is currently one of the most popular games in the world. It is a fully fleshed-out competitive sport, in fact, with millions of players tuning into televised events. Darts hasn’t always been a global dynamo, however, and its journey is quite the interesting tale. In this article, we’ll explore the history of darts and its rise from pub favourite to global sport.
Origins in pub culture
Many of today’s most popular games and sports originated in pubs around the world. Darts is no exception and rose in popularity throughout the Victorian era. Most notably, a pub owner was taken to court after officials discovered that he allowed patrons to play darts in his establishment. He was ultimately able to prove to the court that darts is a game of skill, not of chance, and therefore should not be illegal. The court agreed and the laws surrounding darts were eventually changed.
Beyond the Victorian era, darts has continued to grow in prominence, with the 19th century seeing the game more popular than ever in England. While the game is no longer considered illicit, its origins cemented it as a bar and pub staple.
The birth of standardisation
As darts grew in popularity, the need for a uniform playing experience from location to location eventually led to the layout and size of the dartboard we currently know today becoming the standard. By the early 20th century, darts had come to adopt a few universal rules. This made it easier for people to hone their skills to a set of universal standards and ultimately led to the rise of professional darts.
Rise of professional darts
The mid-20th century was a busy time for the game of darts. While it remained a pub favourite, the game began to be seen as a competitive sport. Organised leagues and formal championships were developed during this time, with the British Darts Organisation founded in 1973 and the game’s transition to a professional game all but completed.
The impact of television
In 1962, darts was first broadcast on the Independent Television (ITV) channel. At first, not much changed for the sport. It wasn’t until colour television became the norm that darts experienced a breakthrough. The first darts competition broadcast on colour television was the News of the World Championship in 1970. Almost overnight, it became a much-loved sport and professional players experienced a marked rise in appreciation and recognition. This brought darts into the broader public eye and out of the pub, expanding its reach globally. It is hard to overestimate the impact that television has had on legitimising darts as a professional sport.
Professional Darts Corporation
In 1992, the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), then known as the World Darts Council, was formed. The organisation was created after a collection of 16 professional darts players decided to move away from the British Darts Organisation and take the sport to even higher levels. Today, the PDC hosts some of the biggest events in the game. It is currently the leading innovator in darts and is responsible for competitions hosted around the world.
Globalisation of darts
While darts is currently a game played around the world, it began in pubs in England and wasn’t an immediate hit elsewhere. As we’ve briefly described above, television, along with the formation of professional rules and organisations, led to the sport becoming popular outside of the country. Millions of people watch darts today from all around the world. The sport’s growth in many countries has coincided with the rise of the internet, with some of the biggest events being covered by global sports streaming services.
The expansion of darts from a local favourite to a global staple is an interesting journey. Are you interested in learning more about the game? If so, begin with your local darts community! You can also join online darts communities to talk shop with other players. Either way, you’re certain to enjoy the game.