The William Hill World Darts Championship at London’s Alexandra Palace has swiftly become a favourite festive tradition — it provides added entertainment in the busy and excitable week before Christmas, continuing through to 3 January, and it has gained a reputation as providing one of the best atmospheres in the sporting calendar.
For pubs, that means added opportunities to make money before and after Christmas, and into the new year, as well as the chance to tap into a heightened interest and enthusiasm for darts to offer it as a game for customers to play in their venue.
The World Darts Championship brings with it a unique atmosphere that translates perfectly for pubs and clubs. With afternoon sessions running from 1pm to 5pm and evening sessions beginning at 7pm, the championship can help boost daytime and evening trade, while two weeks of action also provides the opportunity to encourage repeat custom.
It also helps to get your customers even more interested in darts ahead of the start of the Betway Premier League, which starts in February and is shown live from around Britain and Ireland on Sky Sports every Thursday until 19 May, culminating in the play-offs at The O2 in London.
Tips to make the most of darts this festive period
■ Use your second viewing card: With so much on in December, you can show more live games and sport to attract and appeal to a wider range of customers
■ Encourage repeat visits: With 15 days of darts action, consider a loyalty scheme to encourage repeat custom
■ Recreate the atmosphere of Ally Pally: Turn the volume up, encourage fancy dress and give everyone placards at their table. Ally Pally offers one of the best atmospheres you’ll find, so bring a bit of that into your venue
■ Get people playing: Darts is traditionally a pub sport, so why not set up a tournament to keep customers in for longer
■ Use your free posters: Log on to myskysports.com to download your free poster to promote the fact you’ll be showing all the action from Ally Pally
Using multiple viewing cards in your pub will also be important.
The darts action runs alongside a packed football schedule, which includes 34 matches throughout the month of December, including 10 Football League matches in 10 consecutive days from 11-20 December, as well as a mouth-watering tie at the top of the Barclays Premier League between Arsenal and Manchester City on 21 December. For example, 19 December is just one day where the eight hours of World Darts Championship action complements a full schedule of football, rugby union and boxing.
While Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor has dominated the sport for the past few decades, he no longer finds himself as tournament favourite. Michael van Gerwen and 2015 champion Gary Anderson are now the players everyone’s looking to beat, and an intriguing rivalry is beginning to build between the two, while crowd favourites Peter Wright and Adrian Lewis will be hoping to be right up among them in the latter stages.
For van Gerwen — the world number one — ‘Ally Pally’ always has a special place in his heart: “I can’t wait to get back to Ally Pally and compete to regain the title. The atmosphere is always electric and Sky Sports Darts means that everyone watching will get a real sense of the occasion. The competition will be tougher than ever. What better way to spend the festive season.”
Sky Sports is bringing back its dedicated darts channel this year, following a record-breaking debut during the William Hill World Darts Championship a year ago. Launching on 14 December, Sky Sports Darts will give fans 23 days of non-stop tungsten action from London’s Alexandra Palace.
Sky Sports Darts will again follow every round live as the best players in the world compete for the Sid Waddell trophy. The channel will replace Sky Sports F1 from 6am on Monday 14 December to Tuesday 5 January and all live sessions will also be simulcast on Sky Sports 1,2 or 3.
"The number one event in the world"
Sky Sports Darts pundit Wayne Mardle looks ahead to all the action at Ally Pally
“In any sport there’s always one event that stands out, one that matters more than any other, and for darts, the World Darts Championship is that one. It’s when you’ll see grown men inconsolable when losing and crying with happiness when they triumph.
The atmosphere at Alexandra Palace is electric, enthralling, and captivating. The old building has seen some action in its time, dating back to the 1890s. It’s every player’s dream to win the World Championship and every fan’s dream to be there when their favourite player lifts the magnificent Sid Waddell trophy.
First and foremost I’m a darts fanatic, I’m just lucky to be closer to the action than most, but let me tell you, if I wasn’t in the commentary box I’d be getting the best seat in the pub ready for the drama to unravel.
It all starts on 17 December. I hope you enjoy the unrivalled drama that will evolve over the festive period.”