From its humble beginning of the taproom in the local pub, darts has become one of the most-watched TV sports on British TV, second only to the nation’s number one sport football.
Darts hits a TV demographic that the TV producers and advertisers both love. Gone have the Smokey bars and tobacco sponsorship and in incomes a new breed of support. Betting firms have taken over the mantel from the tobacco sponsorship and the new Fanduel Sportsbook App is another one of the growing supporters of darts.
In 2003 the UK government put a ban on tobacco TV advertising, in turn, many sports event organisers had to find other major sponsors to support their sports, darts was no exception.
The British Darts Organisation (BDO) World Championship main sponsor at this point was Imperial Tobacco. Imperial Tobacco had sponsored the BDO World Darts Championships from its conception in 1978. To find a new sponsor for a sport that is closely associated with smoking and drinking and general pub culture would be difficult for the BDO. However, for them, luck was on their side as Lakeside the sporting venue and fondly known as the home of darts took up the reins.
As many darts fans will know the sport of darts is split into two: the British Darts Organisation (BDO) and the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Barry Hearn, chairman of the PDC and Matchroom has taken darts to new heights with new sponsorship deals with darts betting online and the food industry including Burger King. The PDC World Darts Champion 2020 can expect to pick up a cheque of £500,000 which is a far cry from the first world champions when Leighton Rees’s prize cheque was a mere £3,000. However, Ladies darts still hasn’t moved far from its concept in 2001. Trina Gulliver MBE has won the Ladies World Championship title no less than ten times yet her prize cheque for her 2016 victory was a mere £10,000. It has only moved up to £12,000 in 2019 although the new BDO chairman, Des Jacklin, has vowed to address the women’s prize fund before the 2020 BDO World Finals.
The growth of the sport has meant worldwide TV and worldwide sponsors to suit. The removal of tobacco TV advertising in 2003 has given many other sponsors an easy route into the fastest growing TV sport in the World.
Today most of the PDC Dart events are now sponsored by online bookmakers, paint suppliers and travel agents. Not only do the sponsors get hours of TV advertisement but they also tap into a growing army of darts fans that attend the many events held across the UK, Europe and the rest of the World with some venues filling stadiums of over 10,000 fans or more. The 2018 German Masters had over 20,000 attendees and the growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down
Major PDC dart events for 2019 include the Premier League, the World Matchplay, The World Grand Prix and the World Championships which all feature on Sky Sports TV while several others including the UK Open and the World Series of Darts will again terrestrial TV ITV4. However, In September 2019, the BBC will be broadcasting live darts again but not from the BDO camp. The BBC has signed a three year contract in 2017 to broadcast the PDC Champions League of Darts so let’s hope they renew their contact later this year.
Details of TV darts events can be found under the calendars tab on this website.