What Happened to the BDO & Why Did It Collapse?

Screenshot of the now defunct bdodarts.com

In September 2020, the BDO (or British Darts Organisation) went into administration. That brought to an end a period of almost 50 years during which it had been one of the most important organisations in the world of darts. Alas, the BDO is no more… but what happened and where did it all go wrong?

BDO Timeline

Ultimately, the BDO collapsed because of financial reasons. As the old saying goes, time is money, so for those that fear they might follow the BDO into its sad demise, here is a brief timeline of the organisation, from its beginnings to its recent end.

1973 – BDO Is Born

Oliver Croft is a pivotal figure in the early years of darts and the BDO was his creation in January 1973. The meeting to found the new body took place in his home in north London and its aim was to turn a rag-tag collection of local and county organisations that wielded little power into a national body that could better administer and oversee the sport. It was made up of 66 counties and looked after darts at all levels and of all types in the UK, including the pro, amateur, men’s, women’s and youth games.

1976 – WDF Is Born

These early years saw a lot of acronyms and a lot of birthing and the BDO was a founder member and key driver of the World Darts Federation, the global governing body of the game. The BDO continued to run the sport in the UK, which was, and still is, the powerhouse of the game.

1978 – Welcome to the Worlds

In 1978, the BDO held the first-ever World Professional Darts Championship, known for a long time as the Embassy (for sponsorship reasons). Welshman Leighton Rees beat John Lowe 11-7 in the first-ever final but Lowe got revenge and reversed that result 12 months later. The Championship was initially played at a nightclub in Nottingham, moving to a similar venue in Stoke before finding a permanent home at the Lakeside in 1985.

Mid-1980s – Coverage on Decline

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, darts really thrived under the BDO but by the mid-80s media and TV coverage was on the wane. Some players became unhappy with the direction in which the game was travelling and discussions were undertaken about how things could be improved.

1992 – Big Split

After lengthy discussions, a breakaway group of players, helped by promoter, Eddie Hearn, formed the World Darts Council, which rapidly became the Professional Darts Corporation. This represented a huge split in professional darts, with the game’s best players leaving to join the new body, which they believed could help them earn a better living and garner far more TV coverage.

1994 – First Split World Titles

The first major sign of the BDO losing its way came with the establishment of the PDC World Darts Championship, first played in 1994 and won by Dennis Priestley. As such, 1993 was the last time the game had a unified world title, at least until the recent demise of the BDO. In fact, in these early years (by and large until 2002), the BDO World title offered the larger amount of prize money and remained hugely prestigious; but gradually more and more of the best players in the game drifted towards the PDC.

2001 – Big Shift to PDC

The new players in the PDC had taken a gamble with no guarantee of success but by the new millennium, it was becoming apparent that the PDC would be the dominant power in the sport of darts. That was made particularly clear in 2001 when six top BDO players announced their intention to switch to the PDC.

This was a sign of things to come and over the next two decades, almost all of the best BDO players would move to the PDC when they felt good enough to be able to compete. Naturally this weakened the BDO significantly and reduced its appeal to fans. It would go on to be described as “mostly an unwilling feeder to the PDC”.

2011 – AGM Sees Major Board Changes

Dissatisfaction and disillusionment continued to grow in the BDO and ahead of the 2011 AGM many players and officials expressed concern over the board. At the meeting, all but one of the board members were voted out, though there were no real plans as to what any replacements would, or could, do differently.

2016 – BBC Drops BDO

The BDO was dealt a huge blow in 2016 when the BBC announced they would not be televising the World Championships. This brought to an end the relationship between the two that had lasted almost 40 years and meant that the organisation’s flagship event would now be shown on Channel 4 and BT Sport.

2019 – World Championships Dropped Again

After a brief stint on Channel 4, the BDO was dropped again, moving to Eurosport, minor channel Quest, and online. This marked a major drop in the coverage of the worlds and was a huge blow for the BDO.

World Masters Struggles

The World Masters was one of the BDO’s biggest tournaments and the 2019 edition of the event can only be described as a disaster. There were major disputes over the seeding, qualifying, prize money (which was not disclosed before the tournament began!) and the registration process. Many top players dropped out and the tournament was an abject failure.

WDF Takes Action

Due to the failings of the World Masters, the WDF demoted the BDO to associate member status. They also stated that they could no longer recognise BDO events due to the draw changes, prize money issues and other rules violations at the Masters.

World Championships in Disarray

On the penultimate day of 2019, just five days before the 2020 tournament was scheduled to get underway, BDO chair, Des Jacklin, announced that the tournament’s prize money would be “reduced somewhat”. Due to a lack of sponsorship and abysmal ticket sales (only around 15% of tickets had been sold) there was a major shortfall in funding. This in itself was bad enough but the way the issue was handled, with, again, players set to enter a tournament not knowing what they were playing for, made matters much worse.

Some players dropped out, including Fallon Sherrock, but the tournament did at least go ahead, albeit under a huge, dark cloud. Wayne Warren became the oldest man to win the devalued event but his payday was just £23,000, less than any winner had received since the 1980s! There was a huge amount of negative press and even greater dissatisfaction among players.

2020 – A Bad Year to Resurrect an Ailing Body

Heading into 2020, it was fair to say there was little hope for the BDO but a pesky little health crisis certainly didn’t help matters. In truth, the BDO was probably already doomed, but amidst global events, its demise was almost certainly hastened. Various events in 2020 were cancelled and losses began to quickly add up, with the organisation seemingly having no way out.


In May of 2020, the BDO announced that it was going to have to go into liquidation. Its most recent accounts showed losses of almost £500,000, a huge sum for an organisation with few ways to raise funds, limited media appeal and a group of hugely unhappy – and some would argue second-rate – players.

In September that year, liquidation was a done deal and the BDO was no more. They had hoped to continue administering the amateur game but nothing came of that. And, so it came to pass that after almost 50 years the BDO ceased to exist.


Where Did It Go Wrong for the BDO?

BDO logoWhen considered in the context of the timeline laid out above, it seems as though it was almost inevitable that the BDO would fail. Its decline was gradual but sustained and, whilst it enjoyed a brief period of success in the early years, in truth, it was on the way down for far longer than it was in the ascendency.

As we have said, it was something of a gamble when the players and Eddie Hearn set up the PDC and it was a gamble that did not always look like winning out too well. Moving darts to satellite television and away from its core fans could easily have failed. However, ultimately, as with football and the booming success of the Premier League, the greater finances and more modern outlook of the new body and its commercial partners meant that the PDC gamble was a winning punt.

PDC Offers More Money to Players

Once the PDC was able to offer more money than their rivals, the fate of the BDO was really sealed. The best players moved from one organising body to the other and before long the BDO was clearly an inferior product. It had its charms and for a brief period it did seem possible that the two could exist alongside one another, in the same way that the Premier League and football’s EFL do.

However, there are two major differences between football and darts. Firstly, football is built on club allegiances that are akin to unconditional love. Fans are tied to their clubs through bonds that supersede the quality of the “product” being offered on the pitch. In contrast, with darts, players come and go and whilst fans will always have their favourites, ultimately, they want to see the best players in the world, not the game’s second string.

Darts Popularity Decreases

Secondly, football is simply far more popular than darts. In the modern world, people have more leisure time, more disposable income and more options than ever before. Proponents of football’s failed European Super League argued that change was necessary because the sport was struggling to compete with other sports, plus online activities, such as gaming and using social media.

In a world in which football is struggling to maintain its share of the pie with rivals like US games, such as basketball and the NFL, as well as the lure of TikTok, Fortnite and everything else, what hope is there for darts? Perhaps for a while two “leagues” (the top-tier PDC and “second division” BDO) were sustainable but there just isn’t a big enough audience for darts nowadays.

What About BDO Events?

World Darts Championship
World Darts Championship (dom fellowes / Flickr.com)

2021 was the first year there was no BDO World Championship since 1978 and clearly with the BDO no more, it seems 2020 will prove to have been the last ever. However, there was some hope that some of the BDO’s other major events, and possibly even the World Championships, might be saved or reimagined.

2022 WDF World Darts Championship

Around the time the BDO was being wound up, the WDF announced that they wanted to take over the organisation’s two most prestigious events, the worlds and the Masters. The 2022 WDF World Darts Championship was set to go ahead at the start of the year but due to concerns over government restrictions and you-know-what, it was delayed until April.

Given what we have said above about the competitive nature of attracting eyes to a sport like darts and getting enough sponsorship to make it viable, it remains to be seen whether the WDF can make go of it. The tournament is, at the time of writing, all set for April 2022, with a respectable (though unspectacular) £50,000 top prize for the men’s champion and £300,000 in total prize money.

Lakeside is again set to be the host venue but the list of likely players is hardly one to get your occasional darts fan too excited. In the time the BDO has been inactive even more players have switched to the PDC and although Wayne Warren will defend his crown (sort of) there are few players to set pulses racing.

WDF Masters

The WDF Masters was supposed to have taken place in December 2021 in the Netherlands but that was also postponed due to health and viability concerns. The WDF took the decision to postpone that by 12 months so, fingers crossed, we will see the Masters, of sorts, held in December 2022. The WDF has not exactly stepped into the shoes of the BDO but they are certainly now taking on a far greater role. Can they succeed where the BDO ultimately failed? Time will tell…