Meet the Fans – Ally Pally.
One of our favorite A.I.M: contributions to The World Darts Championships Ultimate Guide ( 2019) was a centred around the unique nature of the supporters at the Alexandra Palace. We are hoping to do more of these from other seminal darting venues:
The secret ingredient, in the successful recipe that is the PDC World Darts Championship, is not so secret. It’s on full public view every day and every session. Over 85,000 fans troop through the doors of the Alexandra Palace every December. Hen nights, stag nights, work place parties, and many other groups, join more traditional darts fans to experience the unique combination of party atmosphere and sporting drama.
Kyle Picknell recently described a night at the darts like this:
“You remember the World Cup, don’t you? That summer-long hysteria that swept the nation away in a hot, sticky sea of pints, sweat, tears and pints. Well, the darts is a bit like that. Except with more pints”
If you have every attended an Ally Pally session, or even caught one on TV, you will struggle to argue with that description. The mix of thousands of everyday people, sporting combat, Christmas spirit and alcohol adds an element to the event that seems very British. The fancy dress tradition, which grows every year, follows a trend from the Edgbaston test match and, has a superb comic edge. An audience member attended dressed as Jesus, on his return journey from the bar, he was captured on the big screen, within seconds the entire crowd were serenading him with Happy Birthday!
As the event moves into its later stages there are less of the party groups and more of those who follow or play darts. This leads to a more partisan, intense atmosphere with crowd favorites cheered to the rafters and some getting a less fond reception. Over the years Mervyn King and Gerwyn Price have been on the receiving end of the crowd’s displeasure, and yet have come out the other side more fondly regarded. This year may see Gerwyn being a crowd favorite.
Since the event moved to its current home in 2008, the crowd experience and participation level has been enhanced and now resembles a darting day-trip. There is a dedicated fan area, just outside the main arena, with activities and opportunities to enjoy the day. Legends of the game appear for Q&As / photo’s, the trophy is on display and sponsors do their upmost to promote themselves and their wares.
Fans of a night at the darts have changed over the years. National treasures such as Stephen Fry, sporting royalty including Freddie Fintoff and Stephen Gerrard and even actual Royalty, in the person of Prince Harry, have been spotted enjoying their arrows.
Could it be that darts has a truly universal appeal, that is captured perfectly for two weeks every year by the PDC, Sky TV and Alexandra Palace?