Action Replay – Hitting the spot

Darts received a great deal of publicity recently when 16-year old Luke Littler came second in the world championships, something hard to imagine in other sports. But, as always, there is a lot more to be said about the background to this.

Officially it is the Paddy Power World Darts Championship, and it’s held in front of a loud boozy crowd at Alexandra Palace. It is run by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), a name which certainly makes clear its status as a capitalist business. The PDC emerged back in the 1990s after a dispute between a number of professional players and the British Darts Organisation. Its chair is Eddie Hearn, who also chairs Matchroom Sport, which in addition promotes golf and table tennis, among others. Mind you, there’s also a separate world championship run by the World Darts Federation.

There may be around fifty full-time professional darts players, who can make substantial earnings via prize winnings, exhibitions and sponsorship; Littler received £200,000 for second-place in the PDC championship. But many would-be professionals really struggle to make ends meet. Owen Slot (Times 23 December) spoke to a number of players at the PDC championships. One was a plumber: he ‘fixed a burst pipe and repaired a kitchen sink in the morning, then won his match in the evening’. If you’re well down the pecking order, say the world number 100, you might earn £25,000 over two years, so it’s hardly surprising that many keep their day job as well as trying to make it in darts. One man decided to return to Australia after losing in the second round, as he just could not pay the bills.

Quite apart from the meagre returns to most, darts involves a great deal of stress, with each game being a one-to-one contest, requiring masses of concentration and mental strength. No wonder so many fail to make it. As Slot says, ‘you only need to fall slightly off the edge to find yourself tumbling back to your job’.

So the darts world is almost as insecure as employment generally under capitalism.


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One Reply to “Action Replay – Hitting the spot”

  1. The darting plumber in the article is Cameron Menzies. Great player despite being a Rangers fan.

    This weekend is the UK Open. One of my favourite darts tournaments. Andrew Gilding is the current holder, but I think Gary Anderson is in with a shout this year. Worth checking out if you like darts.

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