If the two great British narcotics which unite the masses are drinking, and drinking while watching sport, then the rising popularity of Darts in Britain shouldn’t really be a shock. The PDC World Championship of Darts took place as ever over the New Year, with close to 5,000 fans packing out a big venue in Muswell Hill in north London for two weeks to drink, shout, cheer and watch people throw tungsten at a board.
Darts is now the second-most watched sport on SkySports with over a million people tuning in worldwide for the final back in 2007 – the figure for this year’s final game as closer to 5 million. If the ‘sport’ of the occasion gets particularly bad, people simply forget it altogether. During a particularly low-quality second round match between Kevin Munch and Steve Farmer (I know, they even sound like darts players), the fans started to lose interest. About 300 people did a conga dance line round the venue. A few people started a fight and security was called. It is not surprising – an environment of 30-somethings wishing they were 20-somethings, unlimited amounts of bad lager, and a boisterous festive atmosphere has potential to be very rowdy.
This is British society epitomised – we will get drunk, we will shout nonsense when the camera comes past, and we might watch some sport in between. Englishman Adrian Lewis picked up the title for the second year in a row, and his £200,000 prize money. How is their so much money in Darts? The Players’ Darts Corporation have got the recipe just right. They broke off from the British Darts Organization in the 90s, took the best players, secured deals with big sponsors and for the television rights, and simply dangled the carrot of a ‘Lads weekend” for £25 in front of Essex cliques, sat back, and waited.
What epitomises the event is that after every other set, the television coverage goes to an ad break, and as the players walk off stage to rest, ‘Chase the Sun’ by Planet Funk is played over the loud speakers in the Palace and most people jump up on their chairs and tables to sing along, punching their arms in the air. This is just people getting drunk and not caring to be embarrassed – what we all do at one point or another, except in this case SkySports are televising it.