JOE's History of Darts: The 1980s 8 years ago

JOE's History of Darts: The 1980s

From Bullseye to Bristow, you couldn’t avoid darts in the 1980s, a decade where the sport ruled the roost on TV.

On September 28 1981 the first episode of the brilliant Bullseye was broadcast. Soon Bully, Jim Bowen and his host of timeless catchphrases had 17 million viewers watching couples from around England nearly, and sometimes actually, win speedboats, caravans or kitchens.


Here’s a look at what you would have watched.

If you ever needed a reminder of how big darts was in mainstream media in the 1980s, the popularity of Bullseye confirms it. With football only on te box once or twice a year, and with the recession forcing people to stay home more and more, darts stepped in to fill the sporting void and the viewers lapped it up.

The likes of Jockey Wilson, Keith Deller and Bob Anderson become household names but one man towered over them all, the ‘Crafty Cockney’ Eric Bristow.

World No 1 from 1980 until 1987, Bristow won five world titles in that period and was probably as recognisable as any celebrity in the UK during that time.

Events like the World Matchplay, the Butlins Grand Masters, the British Professional Championships and the Winmau Masters appeared annually on the BBC and ITV and that deluge of terrestrial coverage propelled the game to its greatest height in the public consciousness.

But by 1988 the coverage had been cut back to such an extent that only the World Championship was being broadcast live on terrestrial TV.


Though the standard of darts, and the money involved, in the World Championship had never been higher the signs of the upcoming split in the game were there as players grew disgruntled with the way the BDO ran the game.

The other omen for the next decade was a little side project that Bristow took on in the late 1980s, giving a talented youngster from Stoke £10,000 to help his game. That youngster was Phillip Douglas Taylor and he would go on to be the darts phenomenon of the next decade and beyond.