The place of darts in British culture
Why is the game of darts such a big thing in the UK? It’s also big in The Netherlands and a few other countries, including the USA. Australia also takes darts pretty seriously – but generally, the UK dominates and plays home to the biggest competitions the sport has to offer.
So why is that exactly? Well apparently the sport can trace its origins back to English soldiers throwing long arrows at wine barrel covers during the Middle Ages.
In more recent times, one particular court case was pivotal in helping make the sport what it is today, as a Leeds-based pub landlord was prosecuted in 1908 for allowing darts to be played in his pub. At the time, gambling on games of chance was prohibited so the landlord, one Mr “Foot” Anakin, said he could prove this was a game of skill rather than of chance. A darts board was set up in the court and Mr Anakin threw three darts in the 20 and won the case!
Darts grew in popularity from then until the second world war as local leagues were organised: the biggest was the one set up by the News of the World newspaper back in 1927.
After the war, a National Darts Association was established (in 1954) and the whole sport grew from there to become an integral part of British culture, which has also become popular in a few other countries.
These days, some people take more of a “kitsch” interest in darts – whilst others remain serious about the sport – always having a good time (and a good few drinks!). Watching the World Darts Championship each December at the Alexandra Palace (“Ally Pally”) near London is great fun – and gives you a true flavour of what darts is all about. Last year, the 14-time winner Phil “The Power” Taylor failed to win; a rare event indeed. Instead, the young Dutchman Michael van Gerwen won his first World Championship.
The two men are more or less joint favourites for this year’s big event at around 2/1 with Betfair, the betting exchange. No other players really come close in the darts betting market at the moment, though Adrian Lewis is given a reasonable chance by punters at around 6/1.
Betting, drinking and darts all seem to go hand-in-hand with UK culture and darts fans certainly wouldn’t want it any differently!
The editorial unit
Photo: Bogdan Suditu