The head of the PDC, Barry Hearn, turned the unspectacular fringe sport into a spectacle. He gave the players nicknames, made them run like wrestlers with “walk-on songs” towards the stage and accompanied by scantily clad women. So the tournaments became a mixture of sporting event and party. With great success in Germany.
Hearn had early identified Germany as the most important market outside of Great Britain. “I need a top player, a Boris Becker with arrows,” said Hearn after Max Hopp beat Mervyn King for the first time at the 2015 World Cup, a well-known opponent at the World Cup. After his Wimbledon victory in 1985, Becker had triggered a real tennis boom in Germany.
From 50 to more than 20,000 spectators
Even without a Boris Becker with arrows, Germany is the number one growth market for PDC. In recent years, around a quarter of the tickets for the World Cup in London’s Alexandra Palace have regularly gone to Germany.
Most of the tournaments of the European Tour launched in 2012 take place in this country. The halls are regularly full. According to Hearn, there were around 50 spectators at the first event a little over eight years ago.
The most important reason for this is probably the lack of a structural foundation in Germany. There are various clubs and also a darts Bundesliga. However, the offspring is often recruited to a large extent from the children of club members or the ambitious recreational players who switch from electronic darts to steel darts.
Even the pub image, which darts still – and not entirely wrongly – clings to, does not appeal to everyone who is interested. Even in Germany, official ranking tournaments do not take place in restaurants, but many clubs still have these as a venue.
Too few training partners, high travel costs
In addition, the few German darts professionals often have to travel long distances to train with other strong players. The density of semi or full professionals is significantly higher in the Netherlands and especially in Great Britain. This is one of the reasons why players like the South African Devon Petersen or Diogo Portela emigrated from Brazil to England in order to have training partners at the highest level there.
Last but not least, the step into being a professional is expensive and associated with risks. Many tournaments are in England, a season on the Pro Tour brings with it at least 10,000 euros in travel and subsistence costs, and it is not always easy to find potent sponsors. And prize money is only for victories.
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