The Tragedy of The BDO. 45 Years On.

With even Martin Adams declaring it dead and buried (here) it seems that the writing is truly on the wall for the BDO. Darts World has been reporting on the BDO since the very beginning of both.

It would, therefore, be remiss of us to omit the organisation’s current plight from our roster of content. However, we have no wish to take part in the partisan debate or factional rivalry.

The irony is not lost that what the BDO was initially set up to do, organise and promote an inter-county league, may well be all that survives after the last few years of mishap, misfortune, and decline. 

It should also not be forgotten that many of the original founders mentioned, including Olly Croft and Eddie Norman, gave long and valued service to our game through good times and bad. That said, it cannot be ignored that the current situation has been the result of a combination of decisions, taken over decades, that have left the darts’ original governing body on the brink of self-destruction. 

Olly Croft. Founder of the Feast and Villain of the Piece?

Looking over the history of the BDO, for a separate project, it was astonishing to see the number of occasions where the body was involved in banning or blocking ideas, groups or technical innovations that were intended for the betterment of darts, fans or players. As far back as the 1970’s other organisations were stifled, draconian rules imposed and developments such as spring-loaded darts or unusual points were unceremoniously banned. In 1988, five years before the World Darts Council arrived, the BDO board issued an edict that players must choose between a new organisation’s events or their own. With the benefit of hindsight, the situation that developed with the WDC (later PDC) seems inevitable. 

The awful treatment of Tommy Cox and the new organisation’s players and supporters left a bitterness that was barely disguised. Phil Taylor’s swipe at Mike Gregory, after winning the first TV event on the BBC since ‘the split’,  gives some indication of the depth of feeling that existed. 

But a second decision may have been the underlying cause of the situation the BDO find themselves in. In 2010 they rejected Barry Hearn’s 2miilion offer to buy them out. With Croft leading the charge and declaring “The BDO is not for sale”.  

As a direct result Hearn took his money and invested in what became the thriving multi-tiered modern PDC. Youth and a second, or feeder, tiers we swiftly introduced and boldly developed over the next few years. With the recent success of women players, it could be said that this process is almost complete. 

Rod Harrington (@rod180) | Twitter

From merely handling to professional side of the game, the PDC have produced, in less than a decade, a system that caters for all who want to play competitive darts in an efficient and supportive atmosphere. All that is missing is any form of team opportunity.  

Meanwhile, the BDO made the fatal mistake of trying, but not full bloodedly, to compete. Financial miscalculations were made, trying to establish a similar roster of top-flight events without the expertise to do so, and poor recruiting decisions taken in terms of agencies, individuals and companies who promised much and delivered little. 

The resultant problems are too complex to explain here but suffice to say that step by step the road to the’ Fiasco at the Indigo’ loomed and although foreseen it seems it could not be prevented. The embarrassing spectacle of players competing in a World Championship and having their prize and expenses crowd-funded but the sight of Wayne Warren lifting that famous old trophy without knowing if he would receive a penny was, for some, the final shame. 

The birth of the County Game. Could it be the saviour of the BDO?

The usual recriminations and blame shifting have continued since. Briefly it seemed that some form of solution was on the horizon. The lose making arm of the business might be jettisoned and the original enterprise, that same British Inter County Championship first imagined in 1972, could be separated off and salvaged as a going concern. Perhaps even an arrangement with the PDC, and/or others, might be reached whereby the team side of the sport could be operated successfully, alongside the individual network offered by the Barry Hearn and Matt Porter? 

It was not to be, after a farcical ‘remote’ board meeting, the members re-elected former chairman Des Jacklin to the board. Des was later reinstated as to the lead position. The rancorous disputes, that have resulted in three different entities vying to take control of the ragged remains of the British Darts Organisation, should come as no surprise.   

Darts World will continue to keep you abreast of this sad state of affairs as we have done since our very first issue. We strongly hope, one day, to bring you better news.