(Picture: Leight Rees The First Embassy World Professional Darts Champion)
In 2003 the UK government put a ban on tobacco TV advertising in turn many sports event organisers had to find other major sponsors to support their sports, darts was no exception.
The British Darts Organisation (BDO) World Championship main sponsor at this point was Imperial Tobacco. Imperial Tobacco had sponsored the BDO World Darts Championships from its conception in 1978. To find a new sponsor for a sport that is closely associated with smoking and drinking and general pub culture would be difficult for the BDO. However for them luck was on their side as Lakeside the sporting venue and fondly known as the home of darts took up the reins.
As many darts fans will know the sport of darts is split into two, the British Darts Organisation (BDO) and the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Barry Hearn, chairman of the PDC and Matchroom has taken darts to new heights with new sponsorship deals with darts betting online. The PDC World Darts Champion 2017 can expect to pick up a cheque £350,000 a far cry from the first world champions when Leighton Rees’s prize cheque was a mere £3,000. However Ladies darts still hasn’t moved far from its concept in 2001. Trina Gulliver MBE has won the Ladies World Championship title no less than ten times yet her prize cheque for her 2016 victory was only £10,000 and they surely need the intervention of some professional promotors.
The growth of the betting industry is by no means an accident. The removal of tobacco TV advertising in 2003 has allowed the bookmakers a relatively easy path into many major sports events. With new and improved technology, mobile betting apps have made it easier for any pundit to place a bet while watching their favourite sport on TV or even at the event. Bookmakers have also ploughed money back into many of the sports including darts. Today most of the PDC dart events are now sponsored by online bookmakers. Not only do the bookmakers get hours of TV advertisement but they also tap into a growing army of fancy dressed cheering dart fans. Some these events are now catering for 10,000 fans or more.
(Picture: Gary Anderson The Two Time PDC World Darts Champion)
Major PDC dart events for 2016 include the Premier League, the World Matchplay, The World Grand Prix and the World Championships which all feature on Sky Sports TV while several others including the UK Open and the World Series of Darts will again terrestrial TV ITV4.
In September 2016 the BBC will again be broadcasting live darts but not from the BDO camp as we have come to expect but from the PDC as the BBC enter into a new professional darts era.