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Darts is a popular sport that has grown rapidly in the past two decades. Increased sponsorship and support of the major tournaments on the back of a party atmosphere and high octane production has made darts on of the most watched TV sports in Britain.
Still a traditional pub game in Britain and Ireland as well as a professional competitive sport, darts has undergone significant growth in popularity with a large following outside the UK, particularly the Netherlands and Canada.
Like many other sports such as football, cricket, hockey, rugby union and rugby league, the British Empire spread darts throughout the world. What was considered merely a pub pastime has become a big earning opportunity for the top players.
Darts were used as weapons throughout ancient history alongside archery, javelins and the crossbow before developing into a game of skill. The standard numbering plan we see on dartboards today with a 20 on top was probably created around 1896.
The first types of darts were cut down arrows or crossbow bolts. The first purpose-made darts were mainly made in France and manufactured from one piece from wood with a strip of lead for weight and flights made from turkey feathers.
The standard dartboard is divided into 20 numbered sections from 1 to 20 points. The numbers are separated by wires with a two small central circles to the outer circular wire. Each number is divided into three sections with single, double and triple areas.
The central circles are divided into a green outer ring worth 25 points and a red or black inner circle worth 50 points. The term "bullseye" usually refers to the inner red/black section.
A game of darts is usually contested between two players who take turns throwing three darts each. The most common scoring method is to start at 501 points and reduce the points to zero with the final dart hitting a double or the bullseye. The highest score with three darts is 180 which consists of three triple 20s.
Other games include Round the Clock, 20 to 1, Around the world, American darts, Archery darts, Audio darts, Cricket, Dartball, Dart golf, Fives, Halve it, Killer, Lawn darts, Moving Target, Shanghai, Seventeen Skunk, Darf and Ice Breaker.
The British Darts Organisation (BDO) was founded 1973 and is a member of the World Darts Federation (WDF) which was founded in 1976. The World Professional Darts Championship was held annually between 1978 and 1993 before a controversial split in the game.
In 1992 the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) was formed which saw the BDO and the PDC organising their own World Championship in January from 1994. PDC tournaments have a larger following and usually have higher prize money, with 25 players earning more than £100,000 in 2013 and 2014 according to the PDC’s order of merit.
The PDC has become the dominant force in darts with the BDO in many ways becoming a feeder competition. Phil Taylor, 16-time World Champion and the undisputed best player in darts history, joined the PDC from the BDO in 1994.
Highly successful BDO player Raymond van Barneveld switched to the PDC in 2007, winning the PDC World Championship at his first attempt. Since then many of the best BDO players have made the switch to the PDC for more prize money and exposure.
Both organisations hold other professional tournaments, with the BDO organising the World Masters and many Open tournaments. The WDF, BDO and PDC each maintain their own rankings lists.
The PDC's major tournaments include the World Championship, World Series of Darts, World Series Finals, European Tour, European Championships, Champions League of Darts, Premier League, UK Open, World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and the Grand Slam of Darts.
The WDF World Cup for national teams and a singles tournament has been played since 1977. The WDF also organise the Europe Cup. The PDC has their own World Cup competition, the PDC World Cup of Darts.
Multiple-Time World Champions include Phil "The Power" Taylor with 16 (2 BDO, 14 PDC), Trina "The Golden Girl" Gulliver wihth 10, with Eric "The Crafty Cockney" Bristow and Raymond "Barney" van Barneveld (4 BDO, 1 PDC) winning five each.