In Focus

‘Everyone loves the darts’: a world championship for the ages

An epic final at Ally Pally saw Peter Wright win his second world title

Forget the festive football and Ashes cricket, there was only one event that sports fans were tuning into over Christmas and New Year: the PDC World Darts Championship. After starting on 15 December the 2021-2022 tournament came to an end on Monday with Peter “Snakebite” Wright securing his second world title with a 7-5 victory over Michael “Bully Boy” Smith. 

Monday’s final at Alexandra Palace in north London – or “Ally Pally” to keep with the nickname theme – was an “epic battle”, said Metro’s Phil Haigh. Scotsman Wright, 51, “found his best form when it mattered as he surged to victory over the last two sets”. “Snakebite” took home the huge £500,000 top prize while Englishman Smith had to settle for the £200,000 runner-up cheque. 

After Wright was declared the world champion for a second time, his fans would have been “dancing on the streets” of his home town Livingston, said the Daily Record. This win was “for them” as much as it was for Wright, who overcame a “hostile crowd” to take the title. “Scotland beat England everywhere they go…”

‘He will trounce everybody’

At the end of one of the “tightest” world championship finals in recent memory, “there were tears all round”, The Telegraph reported. For Wright, “whose outlandish mohawk hairstyle and Snakebite moniker bely a quietly emotional man”, they were tears of joy. For 31-year-old Smith, “who must fear never realising his bountiful potential”, they were tears of despair. This was his sixth defeat in as many major finals.

After the match Smith said he “must have done something terrible in a past life because it’s doing my head in now”. Wright responded by describing his opponent as “the future of darts”. “I just love him [Smith] to bits,” Wright said. “I feel bad. As soon as he gets a major, he will trounce everybody. He’s going to be a future world champion.”

Darts fans at Alexandra Palace 

Luke Walker/Getty Images

‘Last big Christmas party’

It was expected that the World Darts Championship would welcome “80,000 boozed-up fans” over its two weeks, the Daily Mail reported. It was the “last big Christmas party” that wasn’t cancelled despite rising fears over the Omicron variant in the UK. 

Inside Ally Pally there were more than 3,000 “singing, costumed spectators” for each of the 28 sessions, DW said. And according to a tweet from PDC chairman Eddie Hearn, 1.49 million people tuned into the final which was shown live on Sky Sports. This was the second highest audience in the tournament’s history.

Everyone loves the darts – fact 

This was a “tournament for the ages”, said The Guardian’s Sean Ingle. And the “purity, passion and drama” on show proves that darts’ renaissance continues. “From smoky nightclubs in the 1980s to sold-out arenas today, the sport keeps rising because it makes for compelling viewing.”

The classic chant – “stand up if you love the darts” – was regularly heard during the final as the capacity crowd “rose to its feet and sung its hearts out”, said Simon Kelner in The i Paper. The fans celebrated the “simple virtues of a sport that, in a time of pandemic and political uncertainty, can restore the human spirit”. Darts is the “purest sport of all”, he added. “It is hard to think of another sport which breeds such fanatical, bi-partisan devotion from its audience.”

And here’s a fact for you, said Eoin Sheahan on OTBSports. Everyone loves the darts – and I mean everyone. “Those that say they don’t love the darts are lying to you. They love the darts. They just don’t know they love the darts yet.”

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