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Article: Darts: Dart leagues join up to spur growth

Darts: Dart leagues join up to spur growth

London has a long tradition of supporting the sport of darts, but it is a history that has seen better days.

The 65-year-old London District Men’s Dart League once had a membership of more than 1,000 players. The London Ladies Dart League has 37 years of history behind it while there was also growth in Youth Darts London and Area.

Over time, however, those numbers have faded. Today the men’s league has about 550 members, the women around 265 and the youth league has perhaps 55 competitors.

To help combat that trend, the city’s leagues have come together under one umbrella as the Greater London Association of Darts (GLAD). The association was created to help grow the sport by keeping darts in the public eye while also attracting new players to the various leagues that exist across the city.

All new organizations are created by someone, somewhere and credit for the creation of GLAD is given to members of the men’s league’s recruiting committee.

"The recruiting committee from the men’s league was talking about getting the ladies and youth leagues together to push the sport more into the public eye," says men’s league director Dave Twamley. "It’s the first time we all sat down, got together, and talked about what could be done to grow the sport. We have meetings where we discuss what is going on, how we can share that information with the public, how we can get people thinking about darts."

John McGregor, sales manager at British Darts and Games, the largest dart supplier in Canada, says this might be the perfect time for the various leagues to start working together.

"At the store we have noticed huge increases, 50-60 percent, people playing more, spending more. They’re not necessarily joining leagues, but more people are playing," John says. "So we have come together to promote darts in general to the community and it was thought there would be more impact and it would be done better if we were all under one umbrella. We want to hold events, fundraisers. Hopefully we can grow the sport more – and it is a sport, it’s even defined as such by the British government – and get people to join the more structured leagues."

As to what caused the sport to decline over the years, John says there are likely many reasons.

"There are things that happen that have nothing to do with interest in the sport. The move to more shift work had a lot to do with it, people moving away. There are causes for attrition that just happen," John says. "So now is the time to take advantage of the growing popularity of the game."

The role of television in helping grow that popularity worldwide is something John says cannot be overlooked.

"It’s a similar thing to what you see with poker; it has really grown through television exposure. The same goes for darts. Since the advent of darts on television you have just seen so many people pick up the sport. Neighbours coming over to play, garage leagues, people joining the established leagues," John says. "More exposure means collectively players are getting more money. They are playing for more money now than ever. I think that comes from the exposure on television."

John says a sport such as darts has traditionally succeeded during tough economic times not just because of the low cost, but because it is something the entire family could do together.

That family connection is something Brian Longsbary, a long-time men’s league member, says keeps the sport alive.

"Darts is very competitive, but it doesn’t matter what your age is, what your level of ability is. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. You even see that among the professionals, anything can happen," Brian says. "You see darts on TV now, it’s become very popular. But there’s a 100 per cent difference between seeing it live on TV and seeing it played live in person. It’s just such a great game to be a part of."

For Donna Noutra, president of the ladies league, one goal for GLAD would be strengthening the youth league.

"We really want to encourage youth darts. If you are going to grow interest in the sport, that’s where you need to start, that’s your future players. We have quite a few youth players (a senior player is age 19 and up) that are Ontario champions. We have a good core of players in London," Donna says. "I would like to see people join in the established leagues, get into the programs. We want London to be the best place for darts in the country."

Story By: The Londoner


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