Hair-raising rise of darts in the last 30 years
If I had told my school pals 30 years ago that the World Darts final would one day see a mammoth £500,000 cheque handed to the winner, who turned out to be a Scotsman with an English accent, mohican haircut and snakes painted on either side of his head, one or two eyebrows may have been raised.
But that’s the case in 2020, with Livingston-born Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright (49) thrashing Dutch favourite Michael Van Gerwen 7-3 in a New Year’s Day final watched by thousands at the Alexandra Palace venue in London and many millions more on television.
The pulsating three weeks of action at the PDC tournament – screened live on Sky Sports – also featured one other major story, as Fallon Sherrock sensationally reached the third round while becoming the first female to ever win a match at the finals.
The sellout crowds packed out the Ally Pally, as spectators enjoyed the action – and no doubt a pint or 12 – at an event which has become a British Christmas time institution.
Meanwhile, the BDO version of the World Championships continues at its new venue of London’s O2 Arena, amid poor ticket sales and a vastly reduced prize fund including a winner’s cheque of just £50,000.
These worrying times for the BDO mirror darts’ less than heady days of the early 1990s, with the last fully unified Embassy World Championship being held at Frimley Green in 1993.
Back then, the venue held a fraction of the darts fans who now cram into the Ally Pally in their several thousands.
And the TV coverage typically consisted of daily one-hour highlights packages on BBC2 at quarter to midnight, with the only live darts being the final itself.
Changed days indeed!