The British Darts Organisation (BDO) was once the pinnacle of darts.
The BDO World Championships, aired on the BBC for over 30 years, was led by the greats from Eric Bristow and Phil Taylor to current talents such as Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson.
However, the original ‘world championships’ has had quite the fall from grace with sparse crowds and lack of sponsors hanging over the competition this year.
With darts growing world-wide and viewing figures for PDC competitions regularly being broken – darts is the second-most watched sport on Sky Sports after football – what has happened to the BDO?
Darts has come a long way since it was first televised and popularised through BDO competitions in the early 1970s and 80s.
The sport was synonymous with drinking and smoking and was represented by eccentric figures such as the ‘Crafty Cockney’ Eric Bristow and the ‘King of Bling’ Bobby George.
The BDO world championships was the biggest prize of them all for any darter with players like Jocky Wilson and John Lowe achieving celebrity status, with Bristow and George, through the sport.
However, much changed in 1992 when disaffected players, angry with how little TV coverage the BDO was receiving, broke away to form the World Darts Council, now the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC).
This saw a long and slow decline for the BDO with more and more up and coming players quickly jumping ship from the BDO to the PDC as soon as they became good enough.
The final nail in the coffin seemed to come when the BBC dropped their coverage of the BDO World Championships in favour of the PDC Champions League of Darts.
Since the rise of the PDC, the BDO has been tarnished with the brush of low-quality darts and cannot compete with the glamour of sell out arena crowds the PDC regularly churns out.
A change of venue for the BDO World Championships has seemed to do it no favours as this year’s tournament has seen poor ticket sales and therefore a reduced prize money fund.
BDO chairman Des Jacklin sent a letter to players just five days before the start of this year’s competition stating that prize money would be “reduced somewhat.”
This led some high-profile players to withdraw, most notably Fallon Sherrock, who had recently made history as the first woman to beat a man at the PDC World Championship.
A GoFundMe page was subsequently launched by Tony Martin, husband of Anastasia Dobromyslova, who was seeded seventh in this competition, in order to try increase the prize pot.
This has currently raised over £2,000.
A lack of sponsors was blamed on a perception of the BDO as a ‘toxic’ brand and the move away from the famous Lakeside venue to the more expensive London O2.
Nonetheless the BDO still acts as a good platform for up and coming players with many current PDC Premier League players starting their trade within the BDO circuit.
The most recent example of this being Glen Durrant who won the BDO World Championships three times before his recent inclusion in the 2020 PDC Premier League.
Young players can also make themselves known through good BDO performances, with Beau Greaves, 16, having made the headlines by reaching the semi-finals of this year’s tournament.
The future of the BDO is uncertain with the rise of the PDC looking unstoppable with a planned expansion into China recently announced by its chairman Barry Hearn.
But, for now, the BDO still holds a significant place in darts tradition.
Image courtesy of MDarts TV via YouTube, with thanks.