Organisers hope growing sport will be a hit with Dubai crowd
It's the game that’s grown from being a staple of every village pub to the second most-watched sport on Sky television in the UK.
Now darts is going global after it was announced Dubai will be first to step up to the oche when the new World Series championship hurls itself into action in May. The series will feature tournaments in various cities around the world and comes complete with the top eight heavy hitters of the darts world.
They include star names such as Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and Dutch giant Raymond Van Barneveld. Organisers are aiming for the bullseye with the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters.
Matthew Porter, CEO of the London-based Professional Darts Corporation, hopes to draw in “four to five thousand” punters to the Dubai Tennis Stadium when the “travelling roadshow” takes place on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24.
The weather might be getting a bit steamy at the time of year but the players will be looked after. The darting superstars, who have come a long way from the stereotypical tubby tungsten thrower of years gone by, will be playing in a specially constructed air-conditioned arena on court.
That’s the lengths organisers are willing to go to - as tapping in to Dubai’s expat market is key.
“We want to spread darts to the rest of the world,” says Porter. “On a participation level darts has always been popular. It’s about getting used to watching it - not only is it a great sport, it’s a great night out.”
A game that you play in your bedroom as a kid is now big business at the top level. Darts is now on television in the UK 70 days a year. It has a yearly prize money fund of £6 million (Dhs33.2 million). Up to one-and-a-half million viewers watch top competitions on the box.
“Only football out rates darts on Sky,” says Porter, a former BBC journalist and also the chief executive of League One football team Leyton Orient.
“We get three to four times the viewers ahead of golf, tennis - a top rugby Premiership game gets half a million.” Darts has taken off and is now going for a big score outside of the UK. Following the Dubai leg, the darts world series will take flight and head to other global darting hotbeds, with Singapore and Australia set for August shows.
>> Tickets for the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters on May 23-24 start at Dhs199 for one night, Dhs299 for both nights and are available from Time Out Tickets or at the Irish Village.