How Old is Professional Darts? When Did It Become a Job?

A career in line with our passion is one of the best things one can achieve. Sadly, not many athletes are allowed to make money by playing their sport. Luckily for passionate dart players, opportunities are finally open for professional darts after long years of struggling through history.

Professional Darts was established on January 16, 1992, along with the formation of the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), and as of now, it should be around 29 years old. This was made possible when the top players separated from the British Darts Organization (BDO) to form a new organization.

History of Darts

It is difficult to find credible accounts about the history of darts since the game has been featured in variations in history. However, one sure thing is that the game has its origins in England and has been played in taverns for the past 100 years.

It is speculated that it started during King Henry VIII’s reign when archers, instead of shooting their arrows, in a game where they threw their arrows by hand to the ‘target’ which used to be a beer barrel. From then, the targets went from barrels to marked trees, and eventually, it evolved to the contemporary dartboard.

Later on, what used to be a game of fun became a competitive one when players started to showcase their skills in the craft, and its popularity dominated over other countries as well. Between the 1800 and 1900s, various versions emerged with no rules or specific standards. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the game developed into the current version.

The layout for dartboard numbering is often credited to Brian Gamlin, a carpenter from Lancashire, England, in 1896. He is thought to have created the dartboard layout to penalize inaccurate hits, and among hundreds and thousands of different numbering layouts, his was unanimously decided to be the closest to perfect. No-one truly knows if this storey is true, but it makes a great tale!

National Darts Association

As darts slowly became recognized as a sport during the start of the 20th century. The National Darts Association (NDA) was then created in London in 1924. They gave the sport its own standard as well as a fixed set of rules and regulations.

By the end of World War I, the game of darts was established on solid ground, and competitions with substantial prices became open for players on a regular basis. This was covered in the News of the World, a renowned British Sunday newspaper.

The National Darts Association also organized the first big competition for darts around 1927 or 1928 and was a worldwide hit. It wasn’t a surprise that eventually, it became popular among women as well. However, the NDA was not able to revive itself after World War II, and despite the many attempts, nothing else was made possible until, in 1954, the National Darts Association of Great Britain was established.

First Darts Television Broadcast

The first-ever television broadcast for darts was in 1962 by Westward Television, which was broadcasted to England’s entire southwest region. Because of this, more broadcasts on tournaments were made in the 1970s and 1980s, especially on BBC and ITV.

With the large numbers of sponsors and TV companies, by this time ‘celebrity’ dart players started to get named such as John Lowe, Leighton Rees, Alan Evans, Tony Brown, Bobby George, and the like.

First World Professional Darts Competition

The first-ever world competition for darts was known as ‘the Embassy’ because it was sponsored by Imperial Tobacco and organized by the British Darts Organization. However, when the government banned tobacco advertising in 2003, the formerly known as ‘the Embassy World Dart Championship’ changed its name into the ‘Lakeside World Darts Championship.

First Paper Folded Dart Flight

In 1898, the flight of a dart made from folded paper was patented by an American citizen. A few years later, in 1906, the first metal barrel was patented by an English man.

There have been many speculations on the appropriate distance the player should be from the target known as the ‘oche,’ which means ‘toe line’ or ‘throw line.’ The term was derived from the word ‘hocken’, an old English word that translates into ‘to spit.’ The distance was apparently determined by the player’s ability to spit from the dartboard as his back to it.

In the early 1900s, the game of darts was threatened when the legislation decided to ban any game of chance from public houses. However, in 1908 this was proven to be false by a pub owner named Foot Anakin in Leeds, Yorkshire.

He allowed the game to be played in his pub and claimed it to be a game of skill instead. He was called to court because of this. However, he was able to prove this to be true after he threw 3 consecutive darts in a number 20.

The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC)

The Professional Darts Corporation, formerly known as the World Darts Council, holds championship competitions for professional dart players such as the PDC World Darts Championship, World Grand Prix, World Matchplay, Premier League, Grand Slam, and the UK Open and even manages their own world rankings for their players.

In the 1980s, when sponsorships and television coverage plummeted for darts, some players were not satisfied by the efforts of the British Darts Organization in encouraging new sponsors and arranging television coverage. Thus, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Led by Tommy Cox and Dick Allix, who were both sports promoters, 16 professional players together with all previous BDO world champions founded a new organization, the World Darts Council, in January 1992.

This led to a big conflict with the BDO, leading to the banning of WDC players from taking part in county darts, and because of this, WDC players took the case into court, which ended in high costs. Both parties then called for an out-of-court settlement with the Tomlin Order. The BDO decided to recognize the WDC and allowed individual players to participate in any open competition.

Professional Darts of the Current

Professional darts have gained fame from all corners of the world, with various tournaments available and broadcasted internationally in today’s age. As of now, the British Darts Organization (BDO) is composed of 70 county members that organize tournaments for players of different levels.

Professional darts have also made significant adjustments to match today’s technology through electronic dartboards, built-in games, and automated scoring. Because of this technological breakthrough, the game became even more popular and accessible to all.

Current Tournaments

In the past few years, the Professional Darts Corporation has continuously made efforts to increase its yearly television broadcasted competitions and tournaments. These are the World Championship, Premier League, World Cup of Darts, World Matchplay, and World Grand Prix. These are all broadcasted live internationally by Sky Sports.

In 2007, the US Open was aired on Challenge and in 2008 on Nuts TV. The first broadcast of the European Championships made by Bravo was held in 2010 after ITV4 first aired it in 2008. However, ITV4 was able to win it back. Aside from the European Championships, they also live broadcast the Players Championship, UK Open, the Masters, and the World Series of Darts.