When Was Darts First Televised?

Darts is a popular pastime with a history dating back to at least the medieval King Henry VIII of England. Commonly associated with pub games, the game has grown into a full-blown competitive sport that’s played worldwide.

Given the long history of the sport, you may ask when was this sport first televised? A direct answer would be on 29 May 1937, when television was then introduced to limited people in England. This was a test broadcast done by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). As a trial run, the dart game was played by teams formed by two local but notable hostelries.

The Beginning of Darts as a Local Sport

The history of darts may even extend to its primordial form – spear-throwing by soldiers during spare time. This crude form of entertainment was encouraged by army commanders as the sport’s innate mechanics can improve the soldier’s aim.

It is believed that archers during King Henry VIII of England’s reign spread this sport throughout England as they integrated it into their practice routines. Cross-sectional tree trunks were likely the first dartboards used.

Back then, the target dartboard was called “butt” which was derived from the French word “but” which means “target.”

As the sport evolved, it later spread as an indoor activity. England’s rainy weather has influenced people to play it indoors, mostly in local pubs where townsfolk gather. The “spears” were shortened, and overturned barrel bottoms were used as “targets.”

This target would later evolve into the modern dartboard. In 1986, Brian Gamlin of Lancashire devised the point system. However, at that time, different pubs from different British regions had various point systems. It should also be noted that there is some debate about if Brian Gamlin even existed – you can read more here.

Leagues were begging to be formed and played. After the First World War, darts were very popular, that a National Darts Association was established to develop standard rules.

A Brief History of Darts on Television

Electric television was first demonstrated in 1927 in San Francisco, USA. Its potential as a new form of broadcasting that could supplant radio was immediately noticed. By September 1929, the first British television broadcast was transmitted.

Many radio broadcasting companies tried to adapt to the then-emerging technology. By 1937, BBC began its trial transmissions from its production station in Alexandra Palace in London.

On the evening of 29 May 1937, BBC London Television broadcasted a dart game segment titled “Darts and Shove Ha-penny.” Shove Ha-penny is another pub game involving a board and pennies.

Darts became a segment of BBC’s television broadcast during the 1930s, but its exposure was reduced during World War II. Post-war broadcast rarely included darts until 1962, when Westward Television started its Westward TV Invitational Darts Championship.

This marked the first formal television show dedicated to darts. Despite this milestone, this TV exposure was limited to the local area of southwest England.

This show, however, would run continuously until the station failed to renew its license in 1980 due to internal company issues.

In 1974, the World Darts Federation (WDF) was founded as a darts game governing body. The National Darts Association, founded in the United Kingdom, was dissolved during World War II. By then, other UK-based television stations had dart games as part of their pub game leagues.

Did Television Spur the Growth of Darts into a Professional Sport?

The brief answer to this is a resounding yes. Michael van Gerwen, a Dutch two-time PDC world champion, once quipped in 2018, “Everything that is on the television is good. It gets people into the game.”

The early 1980s saw the rise of dart games coverage on major British television stations like ITV and BBC. Other sports also began to be “televised,” which unfortunately made different sports compete against each other for airtime.

Despite some setbacks, dart games continued to be broadcast that even in 1988, the Embassy World Professional Darts Championship was broadcast by the BBC.

Despite having a distinct English identity, darts are gradually becoming popular pub games in places where Anglo-American culture is strong. These included areas such as North American countries like the United States.

In 1992, the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) was founded in the United Kingdom to serve as a professional darts organization in the United Kingdom. It was first called the World Darts Council (WDC). The PDC managed to help secure new exposure opportunities for dart games on television.

Satellite TV technology facilitated the PDC’s World Championship events, increasing its audience base from merely England and the US to worldwide.

The Future of Darts

Currently, there are many darts significant tournaments held in the UK, Europe, and many countries worldwide.

Some of these events include the BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts, Players Championship Finals, the PDC European Tour (e.g., German Darts Championships), and the bi-annual WDF Asia-Pacific Cup.

The PDC held its US-based worldwide tournament, the World Series of Darts, from 19 to 21 May 2006. Sports channel ESPN in the US covered this, and Sky Sports in the United Kingdom.

This tournament had a prize fund of $300,000. A special $1,000,000 prize was put for any American champion, partly to entice American challengers to beat the British dominance in this sport.


From its beginnings as a military pastime to its promotion through television broadcasts, dart games have come a long way. PDC World Champions sub-tournaments are generally held worldwide, going as far as Australia and New Zealand.

Even the BBC Genome Blog ran an article in 2018 describing darts as a thriving sport enjoyed by many people from different walks of life. The channel still broadcasts darts games.

PDC World Darts Championship is by far the most popular annual tournament with participants from many countries worldwide. It is televised by many channels and is also available on internet TV websites.

It is typically held in Alexandra Palace in London, which is astonishingly the same place where the first televised informal dart game was held, as mentioned earlier.

In summary, television played a role in promoting many sports – darts included. The rise of the internet as a means of watching live events plays no threat to dart games’ popularity.