Has Coronavirus killed pub league darts?

Dart board featured image
Picture of a dartboard. Credit: pixabay.com

Pub darts is in crisis with the future of the league uncertain due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Top level professional sport has faired reasonably well under the current circumstances with the money available to spend on constant testing and ensuring players don’t go unpaid if they have to self-isolate.

However, go down a couple of levels to the amateur leagues and it is unrecognisable in comparison.

Non-professional sport is getting left behind whether it be because of lack of money, resources or attention, and pub league darts – the forgotten sport – is no different.

Mark Airey, the chairman of Rochdale’s pub darts league, is concerned for the viability of the game given that an arrow hasn’t been thrown in almost 11 months as a result of the restrictions the country has been living with since March 2020.

To show one of the pubs which hosts the Rochdale Darts League
One of the eight pubs currently in the Rochdale Darts League. Credit: Ian S geograph.org.uk

As the name suggests pub level darts is reliant on having a pub to host their games and contribute teams to the league, but if the news headlines over the last few months are correct, there won’t be many pubs left to fulfil this role once normality returns.

“When life returns back to normality I don’t know which pubs are going to survive, which pubs are going to be in a financial position to be able to go back and open and trade,” Airey said.

“We only had eight teams in our league anyway, so say if three don’t open, there’s no way we can have a league with just five teams in it, it wouldn’t be a very good league.

“The long term of the league is in massive jeopardy now as a result.

“But to be honest with you even without coronavirus it was heading that way anyway, just due to the way pubs close down and at the rate they do.”

It is hard to imagine amateur darts declining in the way that it is when the professional side of the game is growing exponentially.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the Darts World Championship, fans in fancy dress drinking an ungodly amount of beer at Alexandra Palace, watching the new champion lift the trophy and take home £500,000.

Gerwyn Price lifting the PDC World Darts Championship trophy to highlight the money in the top level of darts
Darts player Gerwyn Price holding up the World Championship trophy he won in January 2021. Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

To get to that level players used to start off in the pub leagues, before working their way up through the county leagues and hopefully reaching the top-flight.

However, Airey revealed this isn’t the case anymore. He said: “I think people are moving away from getting into the game in a way they once used to.

“Now I think people are more likely to go from their own homes straight into competitive darts and pass the pub leagues.

“I don’t think the overall popularity of the game will suffer. I just think it’s our level basically, the pub level, that’s going to struggle.

“It’s more the logistics of the pub game and the pubs in general whether they’re going to be able to survive this crisis.”

Rochdale’s league hasn’t even been able to finish off the 2019/20 season with finals night yet to be played.

Although the 40-year-old chairman has his fingers crossed for an autumn start, there is real doubt the league will ever be able to play again.

Covid-19 has brought about so much destruction to people’s lives over the past 12 months, and it could be the final nail in the coffin for pub league darts up and down the country.