History of Darts

Darts is one of the oldest established English pub games which, since the late 1970's, has become one of the most popular sports in the world.

As far as the origins of the game are concerned, javelins, crossbow bolts and archery have all been considered. Of these the most likely scenario is that the game has its roots in archery.

Indeed, glance back to the earliest type of dartboards and you will see that these had concentric targets - miniature forms of the archery target.

Moreover, darts is most commonly known as 'arrows', and some would say that these two points alone are sufficient to confirm our sports heritage.

Up until the early part of the 20th century, darts existed in disparate forms across parts of England, the only matches taking place being either 'in-house' or friendly matches between pubs which were close to each other.

However, after the First World War, the first brewery leagues appeared and grew to such an extent that, by 1924, the seeds had been sown for the establishment of a national darts association.

The News of the World competition was established in London in the 1927/28 season and by the end of the 1930's had expanded to cover, by region, most of England. The total entrants in the competition in 1938/39 was in excess of 280,000.

Such was the take-up of darts by the brewers and the dart-playing public that, by the 1930's, it had become a popular national recreation in England and parts of Wales, played by all classes, often ousting existing pubs games such as skittle and rings (indoor quoits).

The development of darts found some resistance in places like parts of Manchester, where the smaller Manchester (log-end) board still holds sway.

Darts playing boosted morale in the forces during the Second World War being played in the Officer's Mess and PoW camps alike, and darts was standard issue in the NAAFI sports pack.

American soldiers visiting our shores took darts home with them and generated substantial interest in this 'olde Englishe' game in the United States which up until then was little played in that country.

The News of the World Individual Darts Championship was revived in 1947/48, this time on a national basis, and continued to be described as 'the championship every dart player wants to win' until its demise in the 1990's.

The end of the war also saw the return of The People National Team Championships, which was first played for in 1938/39.

However, the original national darts association did not survive the war and although a number of attempts were made to introduce another national, controlling agency, nothing firm was realised until 1954 when The People supported the setting up of the National Darts Association of Great Britain.

The 1950's and 1960's were periods when darts maintained a fairly low profile, even though participant levels were still extremely high.

The NDAGB was undertaking sterling work both in establishing county leagues and organising top competitions such as the Nodor Fours.

The 1960's saw darts on television for the first time and through the work of the British Darts Organisation (BDO), established in 1973, and the introduction of split screen technology darts really took a hold of Britain and then, it seemed, the rest of the planet.

The 1970's and 1980's witnessed the creation of the first darts 'stars', with players such as Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Alan Evans, Jocky Wilson, Leighton Rees and Cliff Lazarenko becoming household names.

The establishment of the Professional Darts Corporation (initially the World Darts Council) in 1992 took darts in a new direction, with players such as Phil Taylor and Rod Harrington joining the established stars in looking to create a new future for darts.

This resulted in the introduction of key, high profile competitions including the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and the World Championship.

The PDC's plans for to spread darts worldwide have continued ever since, with the introduction of the Las Vegas Desert Classic securing an annual, high-profile tournament in America.

The UK Open became the fifth major PDC tournament when it was introduced in 2003, and the creation in 2005 of the Premier League Darts has helped take the sport to a new audience around Great Britain.

The development of a 'world circuit' of professional darts tournaments has continued apace, with events now held in countries around the globe.

History of Darts written by Patrick Chaplin.
For further information on the sport's history, visit Patrick's Website.