From a pub game to a sporting spectacle: the professionalisation of British Darts, 1970–1997

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Various sport scholars have noted the transition of sports from amateur leisure pastimes to professionalised and globalised media sporting spectacles. Recent developments in darts offer an excellent example of these changes, yet the sport is rarely discussed in contemporary sports studies. The only sustained theoretical research on darts focuses primarily on the origins of the sport in its nostalgic form as a working-class, pub taproom pastime in England. This article critically examines the transformation of darts from a leisurely game to a professional sport between the 1970s and the 1990s. The change was enabled by the creation of the British Darts Organisation (BDO) and the introduction of television broadcasting, which together fed a continual process of professionalisation. Initially, this article discusses both the concept of professionalisation and similar developmental changes in a selection of English sports. Following this, via selected interviews, documentary analysis and archival information, the reasons behind the split in darts are explicated, shedding light on how the BDO did not successfully manage the transformation and the sport split into two governing bodies, from which the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), the sport’s most successful organisation in the present day, has emerged to dominate the world of televised darts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-533
JournalSport in History
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018


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