Women's darts competitions have been part of the darts circuit for decades. However, it hasn't had the recognition some believe it now deserves for years.
The British Darts Organisation (BDO) were the first to stage a World Championship event for ladies, with the prize money only a tenth of the men's event. Ladies could compete on the so-called men's circuit, but few ventured. Since 50% of the population are women and ladies' darts teams featured in many pubs, clubs and bars worldwide, why wouldn't darts organisations and manufacturers tap into the vast area of the sport?
The first BDO Women's World Championship was staged at the Lakeside County Club in 2001. However, only the final was shown on TV. The fear of the organisers was that the skill level wouldn't be as high as the main event, and if the two finalists didn't show top form, the first Women's World Championship could also be the last. Trina Gulliver and Mandy Solomons both knew what was at stake. However, for the many who liked to bet, this event had no history and could prove fruitful for them.
Over the course of each year, there are lots of darts events that you can attend and view on television. In fact, the Modus League now features on Sky 437 and Freeview 264 Monday – Saturday, and with the sport's increasing popularity, major dart events feature on the sports channels every month. One of the major options punters place their bet upon is the total number of 180s hit during a match or tournament. With the increasing amount hit year on year, it is fair to say past performances certainly help with predations in this figure. This information is often available via online dart databases, so smart bets are always made with this information in hand.
Trina Gulliver won the first Women's title beating Many 2-1 in sets. Trina went on to win the BDO World Championships a further nine times and was runner-up a further two in the twenty years it was staged. The reward for women's darts was minor compared to their male counterparts, and all were self-funded. Hence for many, it cost them to play the sport they loved. With the BDO's demise in 2020, the World Darts Federation (WDF) later took over their World Championship and World Matchplay events. The first WDF Women's World Champion in 2022, Beau Greaves.
It took the PDC to step in and invite two women players to the PDC World Darts Finals for any significant change to happen. The PDC and Unicorn had staged a one-off Ladies World Championship in 2010, eventually won by Stacy Brombery from the USA. But the fear of being blocked from BDO events didn't see many top women players enter, and it didn't return for the following season.
The change came when invites were made to BDO Champions, both men and women, to play in the PDC-staged Grand Slam of Darts. The players would play under their organisation, BDO or PDC; hence the BDO was given recognition. The foundation was made, and for the women, more was to come as the PDC then invited the top two players in the BDO to compete in the PDC World Championship event. Initially, the ladies were knocked out in the first round. Many called for their places to be given to better competing male players. However, the women helped bring a different dynamic to the sport, and both the PDC and bookmaker sponsors loved it.
In the PDC 2020 World Championships, which is played through the new year, December 2019 – January 2020, Fallon Sherrock became the first woman to beat a male player on the PDC World Stage by beating Ted Evetts 3-2 (Sets). Her victory made World headlines, and congratulations from sports stars from various sports came flooding in. Billie Jean King, who championed ladies' tennis and equal prize money, was one of the first to show her appreciation. However, Fallon hadn't finished. In the next round, she beat the 11th seed Mensur Suljović 3-1 before losing in the third round to Chris Dobey 4-2. Women's darts had received the recognition they deserved.
Fallon was invited to play in several non-racking PDC World Series Tour events giving women's darts and darts in general greater exposure across the World.
Although Fallon has tried and failed to gain a PDC tour card, it has not stopped the PDC from expanding women's darts. The introduction of the PDC Women's Series has been a major dart event opener for many. The prize money is higher than many other events staged under the World Darts Federation structure and gives the top sixteen women additional opportunities to compete in the New Women's PDC World Matchplay and the top two by PDC Women's Order of Merit, to compete in the PDC World Darts Championships. It seems inevitable that the PDC is expanding Women's darts as this brings new opportunities for the organisation, sponsors and players.
Fallon Sherrock, who is playing in the 2023 PDC Winmau Challenge tour, also made headline news in March for the first women to hit a nine-dart leg in a PDC event. Fallon defeated Marco Verhofstad 5-3 in Hildesheim, Germany, Winmau Tour event.
She initially took a 3-0 lead with her perfect leg of 180, 180 and 141 and achieved a final match 92 average.
Many of the top women now enter the PDC Q-School in January. Lisa Ashton was the only lady to successfully win one of the few cards made available each year. However, the standard of women's play is now so high it is only a matter of time before more women hold a tour card that will allow them to compete in the Pro-Tour Events.
As more women switch to the PDC Women's Series, the PDC may introduce a PDC Women's World Darts Champions, taking the top-ranking players into a play-off final. Recently the PDC introduced a Women's Matchplay event that ran alongside the main Matchplay event held annually in Blackpool, the winner of the first event in 2022, Fallon Sherrock, was given entry into the main PDC World Darts Champions 2023. Hence the future may also see three ladies players gaining automatic entry to the World's top dart event.