Tuesday, 4 January 2011

I'd rather be watching the Darts down at the Lakeside...

...and on Sunday, I was!

I'm a darts lover and have been since I was a child. For me, New Year since I was a child has always meant watching the World's Strongest Man competition, the New Year's Day Concert from Vienna on Radio 3 and BBC2 and the BDO World Darts Championshiop live on the BBC, from the Lakeside complex at Frimley Green. All of which I would do with my father.

A Childhood Love of Darts
My darting recollections begin from around 1992 when Phil Taylor beat Mike Gregory for his 2nd world title in a sudden death, final set/final leg shoot-out. I remember clearly Bobby George reaching the 1994 final where he was whitewashed by Canadaian John Part and then the likes of Welshman Richie Burnett, Steve 'The Bronze Adonis' Beaton, and the Dutch postie master himself, Raymond Van Barneveld. During these teenage years, I added to my interest by throwing many an arrow myself into the dartboard that we had placed in our kitchen. An odd place for a dartboard maybe but it kept me entertained for many an hour.

Having not had Sky Sports at home, despite the increasing significance of the PDC Championship after the great darts split of 1993/1994, it was always the BDO that kept me gripped to my seat. So it wasn't the wonder of watching Phil 'The Power' Taylor that kept me glued to my darting TV screen going into the new millennium, but more the sights of characters such as Ted 'The Count' Hankey, John 'Boy' Walton, Andy 'The Viking' Fordham and Martin 'Wolfie' Adams.

Nowadays, particularly since 'Barney' jumped ship some 5 years ago to join the PDC, even I, a die-hard BDO man has to admit that the future lies with the PDC. For better or for worse, Sky cash has generated big viewing figures and as a result, big money pots for their tournaments.

But the friction between the two camps remains and for as long as the BBC is willing to pay the BDO television rights for its main World Championship, I expect the divide to remain.

The Lakeside - The 'Home of Darts'
But until then, I keep a keen eye out on both. I will probably cave in later this year to buying in Sky so that I can watch more live sports and when that happens, my interest in the PDC will increase. But that will not deter me from keeping a loving eye on the old BDO.

Because it's with the BDO, it's heritage and it's long-standing BBC following that I grew up and for which I hold much admiration and respect.

So, last year, having spoken about it for some time, I was delighted when a group of 6 of us bought tickets to go the Lakeside and watch the BDO World Darts Championship in the flesh. It was the opening Sunday of the championship last year and I was in absolute awe as I walked through the Lakeside doors for the first time. Seeing the stage, the candleabra's and the balcony that I had seen on TV so often through my childhood made me feel like a child again! My boy-ish enthusiasm knew no bound and although our table had restricted viewing, we still had an absolute ball! The fact that I could cheer on (with my magician's hat, Welsh rugby shirt and Welsh flag) a Welshman on our day was a bonus! Martin Phillips won his match and went on to a career best semi-final last year.

Without hesitation, the group of us who attended last year, decided that we'd do the same this year. Though 2 of the 6 were unable to make it this time round, we easily filled their places - including with my old school friend and many time oche sparring partner Luke Rowland.

Being better prepared this time round, we bought our tickets earlier and therefore got a much better table. When we arrived, again on the opening Sunday the day before last, it was again like reuniting with an old friend. Our table was right in the centre of the room with a much better view of the proceedings. Good darts!

Whilst it's hard to argue against the fact that the real darts quality now lies in the PDC, the atmosphere in the Lakeside is still second-to-none. The tension from the game-play also reaches incredible heights. Last year, despite watching 6 first-round men's singles matches and 2 women's quarter-final matches, not one went to a final set. Well this year, we had 3 out of 8 going all the way! The highlight had to be the opening match between 4th seed Steve West and 2010 runner-up Dave 'Chizzy' Chisnall which went to the decider and saw 'Chizzy' come back from 0-2 down in that decider to win the final set and match 4-2! Talk about tension! The roof was raised many a time in that tense encounter and later on throughout the day as well!

It was a great day out and we even finished it with some legs of darts of our own in the next door bar within the Lakeside complex. I won 2 and lost 2 301 legs so I was pleased to have hit a couple of doubles myself at the 'Home of Darts'!

Will I be back for a hat-trick of appearances next year? Undoubtedly! In fairness, I'm also musing over the thought of checking the PDC out at the 'Ally Pally'.

But really, when it comes to darts, there's only one place I'd rather be...down at the Lakeside!


  1. I went to Lakeside for the first time on Monday and absolutely loved it, despite me being more of a PDC man. The atmosphere was fantastic, the darts was fantastic and exciting and I got a video of Bobby George dancing to 'Rocking All Over The World'. Life doesn't get any better than that.

    My own thoughts on the Lakeside and the famous video are here;


  2. Hey mate, cheers for your comments. I read your blog post and it was very interesting to see the comparison with the PDC.

    I tried to add a comment on your post but couldn't see how.

    Me and one of my PDC mates are thinking of doing the Ally Pally next year as well as doing the Lakeside again!