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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Darts players target British pubs as sport wanes

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Darts enthusiasts are waging a campaign to revive the flagging English pastime in local pubs throughout the country.

Once a traditional feature in pubs across the land, darts are losing out to so-called gastro-pubs serving posh food in a more gentrified pub environment.

The Save Our Darts campaign aims to put 10,000 more darts boards into English pubs by 2017.

It was launched after a survey of 1,000 regular pub-goers showed only 10 percent had played darts in the last year, compared with 41 percent five years ago.

"Although darts is increasing massively as a spectator sport, it has been steadily declining as a participation sport," Richard Bloch, of the online book maker Blue Square which is spearheading the campaign, said in an interview.

"Lots of people have already shown their support on our Web site, and Britain's Prince Charles voiced his backing for the campaign," he added.

Patrick Chaplin, a social historian and an expert in darts history in England, said a shift toward more family orientated pubs was responsible at least in part for the decline in darts.

"Any campaign that encourages more participation in darts in pubs can only be a good thing," he said.

Chaplin, from Maldon in eastern England, said the decline of pub darts must be considered together with the significant rise in the popularity of darts as a spectator sport over the same period.

"I think we'll also see darts moving out of pubs into leisure facilities and sports centers," he added.

In spite of the decline, Chaplin said most brewers still organize some kind of darts leagues in their pubs. But he pointed out that darts sports leagues organized across counties were taking over, with youth divisions appealing to a new wave of younger players.

Chaplin cited an episode in darts history, which took place in Leeds during the Victorian era. All 'games of chance' including darts, were illegal in pubs in those times. Around 1910, Jim Garside, who ran a beer house called The Adelphi in Leeds, was taken to court for allowing darts to be played on his premises.

He brought along the best darts player from the Adelphi, a man called Anakin, to prove that darts was a game of skill and a darts board was set up in the courtroom.

Chaplin tracked down Anakin's grandson, who related how Anakin was able to throw straight into any number on the board selected by the court.

Legend has it that the magistrates were then challenged to follow his example. When they failed, the court accepted that darts was a game of skill, not chance. By Rebecca Schischa - (story source...)

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