The game of darts is hundreds of years old...rumour has it that the sport originally began as a contest between bored soldiers / archers during respites from battle. The soldiers threw short throwing spears into the upturned ends of wine barrels. As their competition progressed, a more critically marked target became necessary, which led to the use of a slice of a tree as a target. The natural rings of the tree proved perfect for scoring purposes, as did the radial cracks which appeared as the wood dried out. The winter forced the game indoors, and shorter darts and basic indoor rules were adopted. As the game caught on, even the nobility tried their hand: in 1530 Anne Boleyn gave Henry VIII a set of "darts of Biscayan fashion, richly ornamented," and even our Pilgrim fathers are said to have played darts on the Mayflower (1620), using the butt of a wine cask as a "board".
In 1896, Brian Gamblin devised the dartboard numbering layout, which is still used to this day. With a 20 on top, the board is divided into twenty numbered sections which a score of 1-20. Circular wires divide the sections into single, double and triple areas. Although Gamblin’s layout has remained the most popular, in parts of England there are still regional differences, the most notable being in Yorkshire, where the board has no treble ring or single inner bull.
As the sport grew in popularity, the dart also became standardised, comprising of a 4 inch piece of wood, with a metal tip and feathers at the end. In 1898 the first paper flight was patented by an American and in 1906, an Englishman patented the first all metal barrel. At around the same time, an employee of Hockey & Sons, a brewery located in the South West of England, came across a novel way to ensure that a standardised throwing distance was achieved from one pub to the next. By placing 3 beer crates end to end, a uniform distance of exactly 9 feet was attained.
In 1908 a decision was made by the Magistrates in Leeds, England which effectively ensured the eventual popularity of darts as a sport. At that time, "games of chance" were illegal in public houses (pubs). A pub owner called "Foot" Anakin was accused of operating a game of chance and prosecuted for allowing darts at his establishment. Foot argued that darts was not a game of chance, and obtained permission for a board to be set up in the courtroom. It is said that Anakin threw three darts in the 20 and invited any magistrate to do the same. The challenge was accepted, however the court officials were unable to duplicate Foot's shot, thus proving darts was indeed a game of skill and not of chance; the case was dismissed. The years afterward saw the progression of the game in British public houses; by World War II the majority of pubs had dartboards, and teams and matches with other pubs were arranged on a regular basis.
The first major step towards making darts the international game it is today occurred when The News of the World, a British Sunday newspaper, instituted its championship in 1927. Originally confined to the London area, the event nevertheless drew large numbers of participants, and due to its success became a national competition after World War I. This event grew into one of the most prestigious and sought-after international titles in the sport, but was suspended in 1990. It returned in 1997, but is now restricted to players in the UK. (This event sadly is no longer being played)
In 1973, representatives of 15 nations, including the British Darts Organisation (BDO), formed the World Darts Federation (WDF). Currently, the WDF is comprises of more than 250,000 players, representing 66 nations across the six continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. The WDF is responsible for organising the following international ‘cup’ events:
* World Cup
* Americas Cup
* Asia-Pacific Cup
* Europe Cup
The sport or game of darts is unique in several ways: the equipment required to play is reasonably inexpensive, a relatively small amount of space is required to play, and special clothing is not required. Age, gender, size and physical strength/endurance have almost no effect on a player's ability to do well. These factors combine to make darts the appealing and popular game it is today.