Isn’t it interesting how darts, which started not too long ago as a pub game, has turned into this juggernaut nowadays?
And to top it all off, it is usually about two people throwing little darts at a target—and it is mostly the triple 20.
To the outsider, this may seem like a bizarre phenomenon, really. Many people may even say that this feels boring and wonder why darts is so popular despite that.
Why is darts so popular? Darts is popular because it is easy to learn, fun to play and watch, and almost anyone can play darts. The unique mixture between a world-class sport and a party is what makes darts so popular. The low barrier to entry and inexpensive equipment also add to darts popularity.
Darts has traveled a long way from its roots and humble beginning back when the Indoor League was on TV and even when it was first introduced to the Alexandra Palace. So let’s take a more detailed look at why darts has grown into such a huge thing and how popular exactly it is.
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How popular is darts?
Although darts origin was as humble as it can get, its popularity over the years, as a sport, continues to grow. Of course, darts also had its ups and downs, especially with the split in 1993.
But things didn’t end there, though.
Over the years, darts has been getting more and more popular and slowly expanding.
Once predominantly male sport darts is now being played by many women as well.
On December 17th, 2019, Fallon Sherrock became the first woman to win a match in the PDC World Darts Championship and took about £25,000 in prize money. So we are bound to see even more participation from the ladies in the years to come. And about 85,000 fans went to the Alexandra Palace to attend the championship that year.
Dave Clark—who presents Sky’s sports coverage—stated that darts has grown to be the second-most-popular sport on the network during the Christmas holidays. (The first spot was football.)
One question that people have asked me is how many people actually play darts in the UK and the USA. So let’s take a look at what data we have available and what it says.
How many people play darts in the UK?
In England (UK), between 67,400 and 119,800 people are playing darts or have played darts at some point between 2006 and 2016. Over the years, the number of participation seems to have been steadily declining.
- In 2006 approximately 119,800 people participated in darts in England (UK).
- In 2016 approximately 67,400 people participated in darts in England (UK).
However, these numbers seem to be pretty low and do not really correspond with the overall trend we observe in darts. This is why these numbers may be more applicable to the people that are league players.
If we dig a little deeper, checking the current trends, we will observe a very distinct but slow increase in darts interest and popularity in the UK since 2010. This is why currently, if we try to account for both people that have played occasionally and more regularly, we can speculate that between 67,400 and 330,000 people play or have played darts at some point in the UK.
How many people play darts in the USA?
In the US, between 16.64 to 24.71 million people are playing darts or have played darts at one point or another. And according to ESPN, about 11.08 to 16.10 million people are considered to be casual players, with 5.11 to 8.60 playing more often.
- In 2007 approximately 24.71 million people participated in darts in the USA.
- In 2012 approximately 16.19 million people participated in darts in the USA.
However, let’s take a look at the current trends.
We can see that after 2016 there has been a steady increase in the popularity of darts. However, it is still not at the same level as it once was.
These numbers feel a little exaggerated, and there is no clear definition of what is considered “playing darts”. Because of that, these numbers may have been seriously inflated.
But what would be a more reasonable number?
There are no hard and fast numbers, but a good guesstimate can be made that probably between 500,000 to 5 million people in the US play darts regularly.
How many people play darts in the world?
Darts is played by about 50 million people in the world. Of course, this number takes into account even people who play occasionally or have played darts at one point or another in their lives.
Many countries play darts. Although in some countries darts is not as popular as it is in other people playing darts can be found in every country.
Darts is mostly played in the UK and USA. But many people play it in Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Japan, and Russia. Darts is also played in many African countries like Botswana, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Darts is even slowly expanding to other European countries and countries like China and Dubai.
That being said, this can only make darts more popular, bringing in more talented players and new sponsors.
What makes darts so popular?
Darts is a unique 2-in-1 sport
Barry Hearn—a notable English sporting events promoter—once referred to darts as a beautiful mixture between a world-class sport and a party.
Well, people love sports. They enjoy attending them and watching their favorite players or teams. They enjoy the involvement and the feeling you get when you are sitting right there among a few thousand other people that are living and breathing the same sport as you.
And let’s admit it, people also love to party. Maybe not every day but at least once in a while.
So you can already see how darts is bound to be different as it has two very special ingredients. Ingredients that, to nobody’s surprise, appeal to a lot of people.
Darts is easy to learn but hard to master
The rules of 501 are so simple that you can explain them to anybody in under a minute.
Dart players start with 501 points. Each player throws three darts per turn, earning points that are subtracted from their leftover score. The first player to reach zero wins the game. With the only caveat being the last dart that takes them to exactly zero must land on a double.
How easy was that?
The points each area earns you are very straightforward to learn. The double and the triple areas are also very self-explanatory.
Even a person who has never heard of darts before will quickly understand how it all works out.
You can literally start playing in under a few minutes. But there is a big caveat. Darts is hard to master. People train for years before they can achieve good darts averages and scores.
And this is where much of darts appeal also comes from. This also brings us nicely to the next reason why darts is so popular.
Low barrier to entry
You can play darts almost anywhere. You can play darts at home. You can play at a bar or a pub. You can play outside, even. You can play by yourself, or with your buddies.
All you need is a dartboard, darts, and free space where you can hang your dartboard. It really does not get easier than that, especially considering how cheap everything is to acquire. You can acquire similar quality darts and dartboards that the pro players use, and this does not really have to break your bank. To how many other sports does this apply? I am sure not that many.
See article: How much do dartboards cost?
On top of that, darts practice sessions do not have to be particularly time-consuming.
In other words, you can play anytime, anywhere, and practice for as long as you want or need.
The lower barrier to entry makes darts a lot more appealing than other types of sports and even hobbies.
Darts offers people from all fields of life to achieve greatness and change their lives. Everyone knows who Phyl Tylor is, and he is a great example of how an otherwise ordinary man can change his life by playing darts. He used to work at three places, at a factory, behind the bar, and repair cars.
Indeed, darts is not a mainstream sport like football, basketball, or tennis. Yet it is still played professionally with its own championships and pro players that can play darts full-time.
See article: Darts tips from the pros
For a seemingly simple sport, darts has a lot more to offer than it meets the eye.
It is all about the aim, the consistency, the unknown. The quick numbers. Quick throws. Quick and brisk rounds.
There is something about darts that just keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. There are no big pauses or boring moments. Each moment something is happening.
You can feel the pressure and competitiveness, but you can also feel the fun time people are trying to have at the same moment.
Other sports—although being very lively and brisk, too—sometimes have a little downtime. In snooker, you may wait for the player to decide how to play the next balls, or in football (or soccer), there may be a few minutes where players are just passing the ball in the middle of the field.
With darts, it is all about the action. No downtime. Players rotate and throw immediately. Taking too long to throw or take your darts from the board is usually looked down upon. And why wouldn’t it be? The players want to stay in the flow for as long as possible.
And with pro players that are constantly pushing the boundaries, the games only become more exciting and thrilling.
All this makes for a non-stop action that is nothing short of addictive.
The production value is excellent
Championships are an event.
Players walk on to the stage under their staple music just like what you would expect from a professional boxing match or a wrestling match.
Overall it is all there. Before it all starts, sometimes you will see the competitors standing in profile. Various numbers, statistics, and odds will be displayed, along with all kinds of other things.
Darts championships are on around Christmas, which also helps to popularize this sport. It is almost like a tradition.
All the necessary equipment is also not as intricate and expensive, which makes improving the quality of darts championships easier compared to other sports.
It is easy to keep track of what each player scores, but on top of that, you also get glimpses of the people attending the championship, which are normally in the thousands. On top of that, they are often partying and just overall having a good time, which viewers behind the big screen will definitely feel.
This brings us nicely to the next few points.
The community is great
A sport or a hobby is only as good as its community. And by “community”, I am talking about everybody-the fans, the occasional players, the amateurs, the pros, and everybody in between.
Darts, hands down, probably has one of the top communities. Of course, there will be some exceptions, but it is almost guaranteed that you will meet some lovable people down the pub or your local bar. It is very rare to meet somebody who is not willing to offer some help and advice.
You will often play with regular folk, and you may even stumble upon some pro players. Something that cannot be said for many other sports.
Interestingly enough, if you take a look at what dart fans do, you will find that the majority of the fans are spending their time socializing, drinking, and gambling.
You will see these blank signs (that are often offered by the sponsors) where fans can write down some jokes. And many of these are going to be shown on TV as the game progresses.
All that makes for a unique experience that is hard to match and describe. It is close to what you will experience during a football (or soccer) championship.
And you can feel it in the air even when watching darts championships on the TV or online.
Then again, even if you do not intend to play professionally or join a league, you are still bound to have a good time. Maybe it is because of darts’ humble origin, but people are generally trying just to have fun, make some noise, and throw some good darts.
Some will say that darts is a traditional part of English popular culture.
You can take the darts out of the pub, but you cannot take the pub out of darts. It has always been associated with good laughs and beer.
Darts is good for the health
Some may find it funny, but despite its simplistic concept, darts can also be good for your health.
Darts can help you socialize and build up friendships that can last a lifetime.
It can also be a good hobby that you can do in your spare time, which can help you relax and relieve some stress. Darts can be pretty meditative at times.
On the other hand, darts can also improve your concentration, focus, strategic thinking, and math skills. In addition to that, darts will require you to think on your feet and make quick decisions.
See article: Health benefits of playing darts
There is a lot of variety
Some games can get very boring, very fast. This is another aspect that darts also succeeds at. Despite the fairly simple idea behind darts, there are many different darts games that people can play. On top of that, you can also think of many variations to each game, which can make things even more interesting.
In fact, you can even play with other darts players worldwide. There are different applications and websites that offer such services, making darts even more fun than before as there are weekly or even daily challenges, and so much more.
All this makes for great variety and replayability.