On the 24th March 2005 darts became a recognised sporting activity by Sports England. Later the same year, on the 3rd June, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland added their unanimous agreement that darts was a sport. To some, darts as a sport is controversial and still call it a game like snooker, while others compare darts to other forms of hand-eye coordination sports such as pistol, rifle and archery shooting.
The newly crowned sport of ‘darts’ however, does not receive UK Lottery funding as per many other sporting activities such as athletics. The sport relies on sponsorship mainly from bookmakers and from online sports betting firms. The two go hand in hand because ever since a dart has been thrown small wagers have featured, even if it was for only the price of a drink.
Since darts became a recognised sport, many have suggested the sport should feature as a new event in the Olympics. However, many people and including professional players may not know darts has already featured in the Olympics, in a slightly different form than they would normally expect to see it played.
Achive Footage Tokyo Paralympics 1964. View this full video on YouTube
Darts became part of the Paralympics in 1960 in the form of archery. Initially called ‘Archery Darts’ the sport was given a new name ‘Dartchery’
The origins of Dartchery stem from the UK. It was a group of non-disabled darts players playing ordinary darts against wheelchair archers using a bow and arrow to shoot at a conventional standard dartboard exactly three times the normal size of a standard dartboard. They shot their arrows from a distance of thirty feet approximately 12 yards, however, records show this distance varied and 15-20 yard distances have also been used. Archery-darts or Dartchery was demonstrated at the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953 and added to the competitive programme in 1954 and it became an Olympic sport in the Summer Paralympic in 1960.
Dartchery formed part of the Paralympics from 1960 and remained on the Paralympic programme for wheelchair athletes up until Arnhem, the Netherlands in 1980. Thirty-one mixed pairs from eighteen countries took part at the 1968 Paralympic games in Tel Aviv and teams competed against each other in sixteen rounds. It was the American pair Geissinger and Kelderhouse won the gold medal.
The event consisted of mixed pairs 1960-1980 and from 1972-1980 men’s and women’s pairs was introduced. Each archer, like standard darts, would fire three arrows, in turn, to reduce a score of 301 to zero.
Many will call Dartchery not darts at all and it is just another form of archery played on an oversized dartboard target area. However, in recent years disability darts has become one of the biggest growing sports in the disability sports category. In 2010 Russ Strobel successfully recommended a different dartboard height for wheelchair uses allowing a wheelchair user to fairly compete against able-bodied players or other disabled players that are able to stand but may have lost a limb.
Several of the disabled played are now sponsored by leading dartboard and darts manufactures and their new sport is growing worldwide with new organisations being formed every year.
In 2019, the World Disability Darts Association held their first World Cup. The event attracted teams from England, Wales, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Denmark, and a Rest of the World team. The event was won by team England. They beat Wales in the final 9-7.
Although I can not see darts becoming a mainstream event in the Olympics, it may at some point, become another Paralympic Sporting event. However, this will be up to the sporting authorities to make a case that the sport is played internationally and would be a good addition to the games.