The size of the daily crowds at this end of year Darts competition goes to show how far the sport has come from its muted beginnings in 1994; not only is the darts great to watch but the atmosphere generated at the palace rivals that of any football ground on a Saturday afternoon, and I dare any of you to watch the video above and say you wouldn't be joining in! They pack into one of the palaces large halls on long, picnic bench style tables, settle down with their jugs of beer and their home-made banners to watch hours of sport entertainment. The personnel of the crowd too may come as a surprise, for darts now seems to be the new sport of choice for the Royals, with Prince Harry appearing in the crowd at the 2010 final and last night saw Mike Tindall and wife Zara Phillips sitting in the stands. Other celebrities at last nights final include former cricketer Andrew Flintoff and comedians Lee Mack and Tim Vine.
|Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall enjoying the darts last night.|
Darts has begun to attract large crowds consistently and TV giants Sky Sports, who showed all 72 matches of this years World Championships, have taken note. They now broadcast at least 6 major Darts events a year, sometimes showing up to 10 hours of a live action a day, with their decision to do so being justified with increased viewing figures year on year; 2002 saw 200,000 viewers for the World Championship Final in contrast with the one million that watched this years. Darts is now a global sport too with PDC UK events broadcast around the world in countries such as Australia, Holland, Singapore and the United States. No other sport in my eyes has seen such a rise in popularity in recent times; its gone from being a game played to small crowds in large pubs, to a global sport which is fantastic to watch. The money involved at the World Championships, money nowadays being an indicator towards popularity, has risen from £16,000 in its inaugural year in 1994 to £200,000 that Adrian Lewis picked up yesterday, not to mention the increase in sponsors emblazoned on the light-weight shirts the players wear.
|Phil 'the power' Taylor with his award in 2010.|