Column #HR288 Strange Year Par Uno

Monday, September 14, 2020
Column HR288
Strange Year Par Uno

Some relish calling the Old Dart Coach the ultimate Captain Oblivious.  He obliges.

It’s been an unusual year for the Professional Darts Corporation and darts in general in oh so many ways – but the demise of the British Darts Organization (BDO) must top the list of “who would have thunk it?”

The BDO’s fall from grace marked the passing of an era resulting from the failure to innovate in an ever-changing marketplace along with a failure to make sound business decisions bereft of knowledge or ego.  To be honest there were some clues as joiners were cutting mahogany 84 inches long and 28 inches wide as the year 2019 closed.

It was a cold January 7 in 1973 (all January 7s are cold in England) when a visionary, the late Olly Croft, brought together different factions to form the BDO.  The BDO would grow to include 66 UK counties ruling not only the UK but the entire world of darts.  Depending on who writes the history, the BDO was operated either as a “benevolent dictatorship” or simply a run of the mill dictatorship.   A democracy? Only for those who believe in Unicorns, the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.

In 1976, the BDO and Mr. Croft stitched the quilt that would cover international darts like a blanket with the formation of the World Darts Federation (WDF).  The BDO with puppets placed on the WDF board, ran the WDF with an iron fist.  Whoa behold to anyone that fell in disfavor (as this author can attest).

Case in point is the dartboard company that was the “official” WDF board.  They paid the WDF pittance with much more going to the BDO.  A competitor asked for a hearing in front of the WDF board.  It took 3 years.  The hearing lasted 5 minutes.  Bye-bye competition and bye-bye the representative from Thailand who questioned the WDF.  He was voted off the WDF Island.

In North America, the National Darts Federation of Canada (1977) and the American Darts Organization (1975) can trace their formations and framework to the BDO.  In the USA it was Tom Fleetwood and Ed McDevitt who were the guiding force.

The BDO had two major international tournaments (the World Masters and the Embassy World Professional), the county competitions, sponsors, many local tournaments, television and the stars.  It was clearly a win-win situation.  One of the perils of any “startup,” as the BDO was, is that getting started (usually the easy part) ranks a distant second to remaining viable – which requires adjusting to a changing marketplace with innovation and sound business decisions.  Much more difficult.

One of the BDO’s strong points was that they controlled all “professional players.” In January of ’92, 16 professional players along with three managers formed the World Darts Council (WDC) which later morphed into the PDC.  Their plan was not to break the BDO but to work with it.

Following meetings, it became apparent that the BDO had no intention of working with the WDC.  “In 1993, the BDO banned all who had joined the WDC from playing in county darts, Super League, all BDO tournaments and internationals.  That ban could only be lifted if those individuals pledged their loyalty to the BDO and returned.”  The WDC filed a lawsuit (restraint of trade) which brought forth the Tomlin Order which meant players could play wherever they wanted.

The BDO was down to one TV event (the Embassy) as the number of TV outlets in the UK expanded.  The WDC became the PDC but struggled early on.  Then Barry Hearn came on board, completely changing the game. Hearn reportedly made an offer to buy the BDO, planning to use it as a feeder system for the PDC.  The offer was rejected out of hand.  That doomed the BDO.  They were left without TV and, most importantly, money.

In August of 2011, the founder of the BDO, Olly Croft, was ousted from his control of the BDO.

What followed was horrible management along with bad decisions and an eroding fan base.  The one sponsor that was either ignored or rebuffed by the BDO were betting interests.  Currently, of the 12 PDC events 9 carry a betting sponsor.

No indication of BDO’s ineptitude is more apparent than the post by CEO Des Jacklin in early September (edited for space):

There has been much speculation of late regarding the future of the BDO.  This has only been enhanced by the promotion of a rival organization set up to try and take away the heritage of the BDO, we cannot allow this to continue.   

The BDO are pleased to announce the first list of County teams that will be remaining with the BDO for the 2021/22 season. 

Several other counties have had their vote and we are awaiting official confirmation that will be published in the following days. I can also confirm that I have been contacted by several County teams that have already had their vote and chosen to play in a rival organization but have since had a change of heart due to the BDO being a more viable option and indicated that they will not be playing in the rival organization and will be registering with the BDO for the forthcoming season. 

Just days later, the BDO became history.

The Queen, Deta Headman, posted the following about the end of the BDO.  It captures well the feelings of many darters.

Sad day for the sport of darts with the demise of the BDO, played my first game in the system back in the 1980s have had some unbelievable highs and some very lows, but have had some great memories and met fantastic people. But now we move on with the UKDA, be nice if all the egos and feuds were left behind us and get back to playing and enjoying darts, UKDA and Mad darts working alongside the 3 home nations and the WDF could restore the reputation of our side of darts. Good luck to all players and remember the officials deserve our respect, here’s to a bright future for County darts, international teams and world ranked events. BDO gone but not forgotten.  

The Queen nails it. The BDO will never be forgotten. But more important, hopefully their mistakes will be noted, remembered and guide other organizations to not follow their path.

It’s a steep slope to reject the feeling of power while doing what’s right and profitable to all, avoiding personal enhancement.

Captain Oblivious strikes again.

Stay thirsty my friends.

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.
Howie Reed

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