Darts

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Darts and pubs go together like a horse and carriage. So, with the game enjoying a revival, why not get involved and start making a name for...

Darts and pubs go together like a horse and carriage. So, with the game enjoying a revival, why not get involved and start making a name for yourself, asks Graham Ridout

Pubs and darts have been linked for decades - certainly since the end of the Second World War, al-though, oddly, it was banned in some places between the two world wars.

Almost all of the game's top players, both past and present, owe their success to playing and practising in pubs and clubs. Members of the future generation of famous arrowsmiths are, no doubt, currently representing a pub or club in the UK.

Although darts may have been overshadowed by pool, it is currently undergoing a revival.

There are around three-quarters of a million registered players in the UK and estimates of the number of regular participants range from three to six million.

In turn, millions tune in to terrestrial TV to watch the British Darts Organisation's World Professional Darts Championship, which is held every year at Lakeside. On satellite TV, darts is second only to Premiership football, with Sky Sports viewers watching events run by the rival Professional Darts Corporation.

Even so, many licensees are missing out on the business-building opportunities offered by darts.

Not so at the Cambridgeshire Hunter, a Charles Wells' community pub located in Eynesbury, near St Neots in Cambridgeshire.

When licensee Dave Palmer ar-rived at the pub a year ago, he soon set up a darts team, as he had run teams previously when in charge of two pubs in the north of England.

And he found plenty of enthusiasm for his idea. "All the members

of the team are regulars and they

all rallied round to form the team," he says.

Recently, a second team was added. Each has 10 male players and competes in the St Neots league.

Palmer says: "It is a really good league - there are four divisions with 12 teams in each. There is a lot of enthusiasm for darts in the area."

Both teams play on a Thursday evening — one at home and one away. With two teams, trade doesn't slump every other week, as would be the case if there was one team.

Palmer adds: "Darts has definitely helped to improve takings on what would normally have been a quiet night. It has helped offset what is a difficult time for the trade."

His advice to fellow licensees is to give it a go, but cautions: "You have got to get involved yourself; it is no good leaving it to other people to organise."

Case study - The Vine

Kelvin and Jo-Ann Neal have made darts an integral part of the Vine, which is located on the edge of the Lincolnshire town of Market Deeping. For the past year-and-a-half, the couple has run a mixed team from the pub. Kelvin says: "We are a family-orientated, community pub and darts fits nicely into the social atmosphere."

The team comprises nine or 10 players, so that everyone can have a game during the evening.

"We do it for fun and we're cannon fodder for many of the larger pubs in the league," admits Kelvin.

Especially when the 2007 Lakeside Professional World Champion Martin "Wolfie" Adams turns up as a player for another pub in the league. "He gives everyone a thrashing, but it's great to play against a world champion and it is good for Market Deeping."

Kelvin has harboured thoughts about trying to poach Adams, but adds: "Fun is the main reason we play darts. Plus, we pride ourselves on the standard of our post-match food."

Apart from the league matches, which run every Wednesday almost throughout the year, the Vine also hosts a knock-out competition every other Sunday. "That way, we get some practice and have a bit of fun."

Kelvin adds: "I think all pubs should consider doing darts. It has generated a bit of extra turnover for us throughout the year, which we wouldn't otherwise get."

More information

Brewer Wells & Young's is sponsoring the Courage National Pub Darts competition. If you want to get involved in all the fun and action, see next week's MA for all the details.

How to set up your own darts team

Most pub leagues are only too keen to welcome new members. But in order to be profitable, it is advisable to have two teams - otherwise, you will lose custom from your players every other week when they are playing away. With two teams, one will always be at home on the designated night. Remember, many teams will bring supporters or partners along to watch, thereby boosting trade.

Each team usually comprises six players and two reserves. However, it may be necessary to enlist about twice as many to take account of some players not being available.

Ensuring the players' availability is key to running a successful night. You can either do it yourself or appoint a team captain, while using email or text messaging should cut down on the time spent contacting people.

On match nights, cordon off the area around the dartboard so that players and visitors feel comfortable and relaxed.

Don't forget to make a splash with the complimentary food. Some players might miss their evening meal to attend a match, so having a good selection of food is a must.

Bulk-buy supermarket/cash-and-carry products such as pizzas, sausage rolls, pies, sandwich fillings and the like, which will keep

costs down; they're also quick to prepare.

In all probability, there will be smokers in the teams, so allow intervals during the evening.

Darts can be a great way to socialise and make new friends, particularly among singles. Therefore, why not put people's names into a hat and draw one male and one female who will play together against other couples in a knock-out competition? Also, think about having more serious in-pub darts competitions with modest prizes for the winners.

Whatever you do, make sure you advertise the events and get bar staff to drum up participants.

Did you know?

n The history of darts is as colourful as some of the game's leading players. Some historians say the first recorded game was held in Dartford, Kent, claiming that's how the place got its name, conveniently forgetting that an ancient bridge forded the river Dart in the town.

n The old name for a dartboard is "butt", which some say ties in with the game's origins of throwing arrows at the circular ends of wooden wine or beer barrels. Others say it is not butt, but "butte", the French word for the target used in archery practice.

n Another account says that the original board was the sawn end of a tree trunk and, as the timber aged and split, the segments created were aimed at to improve accuracy. This is said to be the origin of the modern board, which has wire bands delineating different scoring opportunities. Brian Gamlin is acclaimed as inventing, in 1896, the current layout of the numbers around the board, which were arranged to "penalise inaccurate throws".

n Between the two world wars, darts was banned in certain places, including Liverpool and Glasgow, because it was thought to encourage the "unruly classes".

n There are records of a game called Puff and Darts, where players used a blowpipe to aim at the board. The game fell out of favour after a player in a London pub sucked instead of blowing and the poor fellow died of his injuries.

n In June 2005, darts was officially recognised as a bona fide sport by the sporting councils in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are hopes that it will one day feature at the Olympic Games.

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