Hearn’s vision for darts wasn’t the first

Barry Hearn
Barry Hearn
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More than £11.2m was poured into the darting world coffers as prize money in 2017.

It’s an astronomical amount by any stretch of the imagination to be devoted to what only four decades ago was described in some quarters as a pub game rather than a genuine sport.

How times have changed thanks to the visionary of darts supremo Barry Hearn!

Essex-born accountant Hearn has added darts to his successful portfolio, which also includes snooker and boxing, but he wasn’t one of the first people to spot the potential of a simple indoor sport which for many years had been played in dinghy back rooms of smoke-filled pubs and clubs.

Big Frank Cunningham - a larger-than-life character in St Helens - also had the foresight through his UK Darts Organisation to bring the best BDO darts players of time, including world champions John Lowe and Keith Deller, to the town to play exhibition matches against local talent in the 1980s.

Like Hearn, Frank was a forward-looking kind of guy but didn’t have the financial clout to expand the sport across the globe.

However, I believe it is no co-incidence that his legacy has played a part in St Helens having produced several players who have gone on to reach close to the pinnacle of their profession in recent years.

Locally born Gary Welding, Alan Tabern and latterly Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith have proudly carried the town’s flag at the highest level and had Frank still been alive today he would have been as proud as punch at the part he played in promoting the sport and the results achieved.

Neither does the St Helens link end on the oche with former Saints’ director and TV and radio broadcaster Stuart Pyke bringing the sport into the homes of thousands.

Long may it continue!