For years, British darts was run by one organization, the British Darts Organization. But dwindling television coverage and a huge drop in both sponsorship and prize money meant that some members were becoming restless. These were the seeds for the split in darts.
Introduction: The Split in Darts
The split in darts is about the rift between the UK’s top professional darts players and their governing body, the British Darts Organization (BDO), that took place in 1993. The players were suffering financially from the decline in television coverage and were unhappy with the BDO in it’s inability to help them. To that end, sixteen of the top ranked players broke away to form their own organization, the World Darts Council (WDC).
Darts in the Beginning
Darts first appeared on UK television in 1962, though didn’t start to gain mainstream traction until 1972. With the games increasing popularity and exposure, in 1973 the BDO was formed and they took to organizing events throughout the UK. During the 1980’s large competitions such as the World Masters, British Matchplay, the World Matchplay, the European Championships and the World Cup were shown on television. Thanks to new sponsorship, the prize money was enough to allow some players to turn professional.
The Split in Darts: Bad Image
Maybe because darts had it’s beginnings in the pub, the players were allowed to both drink alcohol and smoke during play. But times were changing. Advertisers were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their brand names being associated with such activities. According to the betting site, Betsson, Television darts peaked in 1983 and from then on sponsors started leaving for more family friendly sports. By 1989, only one tournament was televised. And though the BDO banned alcohol from the match, the damage was already done. The flow of sponsors leaving would prove unstoppable.
Formation of the Worlds Darts Council
During the golden age of television darts many players were able to turn professional. So it was not surprising that discontent would begin to surface as revenues and sponsorship monies started to dry up. Many players wanted the BDO to do more and actively promote darts. The upshot occurred in 1993. This is when sixteen of the countries top players, including every previous World champion, set up their own organization. Obviously they thought this could better represent their interest. This was the WDC. They quickly appointed a public relations company to improve the public image of the game and find more television tournaments and sponsorship money.
World Wide Bans
The last time all players played as one, was the 1993 Embassy World Championship. Online sports book news in the UK also reported that though the WDC wore their own insignia for the match, they were told to remove them by the BDO. After the event, and with the WDC players wanting recognition from the WDF, not the BDO, the latter then banned all WDC players from playing in any BDO tournaments on British soil. As if that wasn’t enough, in later 1993, the BDO sought and received world wide bans for all WDC players. The cherry on the top was that any BDO players who took part in exhibition matches with WDC players would also be banned. After four years of very expensive court cases for both sides, the Tomlin Order was hammered out.
The Split in Darts: The Tomlin Order
This stipulated that the BDO would recognise the WDC. Players could choose under which organization they wanted to play. In return, the WDC would recognize the WDF as the governing body of world darts. Also that the BDO was their governing body of UK darts. The WDC then changed it’s name to the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Thanks to the split in darts, there are now two darts organizations in the UK. Which means double betting opportunities with Betsson. Competitions that were organized by each group could only invite those players who were already members. But the PDC became more popular over time, and so many players started to jump ship.
Today, the BDO is but a shell of it’s former self. With the split in darts, so many players have left, and with them, major sponsorship. Many online sports book sites in the UK were reporting that the BDO were recently unable to provide the promised prize money for a competition. In fact the talented woman player Fallon Sherrock pulled out of the competition due to the lowering of the prize monies. In the end they had to re-sought to a “go fund me’ to raise the required sum. Making an effort to mollify it’s dwindling base, the BDO finally lifted all PDC restraints in August 2018. But the damage that caused the split in darts after years of ill-will will not be forgotten so easily.
It recently transpired that in 2009, Barry Hearn made an offer to buy the BDO. The idea was to consolidate the two organizations. Unfortunately the BDO turned him down. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they were deeply regretting that decision today.