Professional darts has come a long way over the last couple of decades. Long gone are the days of overweight, middle-aged men reluctantly approaching the oche after another pint or cigarette. Much as many of those who participated in those days are part of popular folklore, there's no denying the fact that darts is now enjoying a far higher standard of quality. Yet unlike many sports, this is one that regardless stays true to its roots. Is this why darts - one of Briton's most watched TV sports - remains so incredibly popular? Let's take a look at the game and why this certainly appears to remain the case.
With Barry Hearn's influence on the game, there's little surprise that 'bar room' sports are following in the massive increases in the popularity of snooker - and to a lesser extent, pool. While most certainly a divisive figure, Hearn has a track record of attracting not just fans and viewers - but also big money sponsorship to the sports he promotes. He has taken a game that was once not far off from just passing the pot about for everyone to chuck in a coin or note to the big time.
It's predicted that thanks to the increased sponsorship support of the major tournaments, that there'll be close to £2m to be split next season. Compared to some sports that may not sound a huge amount, but throw in the massive opportunities for endorsements and exhibition events and it's easy to see why the elite players are now earning a very good income.
Who hasn't thrown around a few arrows in a bar - usually for little return against the local 'ace'? The fact of the matter is that contemporary UK darts has enjoyed a highly competitive matchplay recently. Four separate winners over five years with competitors representing England, The Netherlands, and Scotland.
No longer is it the case of Phil Taylor dominating the scene (last UK Open win in 2013), it is far more diverse, energetic and quite simply professional to what darts used to be. Those who make it through to the last 16 aren't assured of an easy pass anymore. This helps make it perfect for TV.
Speed. It is an incredibly engaging and fun sport to watch. Every throw of the arrow counts. Throw in the massive factor of holding nerve and concentration under stress, and it's a perfect TV sport.
To many people, darts may seem boring. Factor in a near 20% viewership increase over the last four years, and that'll explain why people who give it a chance will end up being hooked. Games can - and often do - have huge fluctuations in performance between the competitors. Check the odds at the bookie and nowadays even the most surefire player will be at best 3-1.
There's also the darts 'tradition' that must not be overlooked. This is a game of high stakes, pressure and the joy and ebullience that victory creates. No other sport offers that level of drama, which is why in the UK the ladies amateur league has almost as many members as the male.
Remember those pot bellied, pint swilling chain smokers mentioned above? That is no longer the case in professional darts. Nowadays the true competitors are the exact opposite. Sure they may not be the most photogenic bunch - but this is a sport of the average, everyday person. It is why darts has become so successful on TV.
There's huge interest in The Netherlands in darts at the moment - and this is in no small part thanks to Michael Van Gerwen's consecutive successes in recent years. Most of those players are competing personally or for small town leagues. The same is the case in the UK. Keep those fresh players interested and developing, and maybe one day justice shall be served and darts considered an Olympic Sport.