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The “Littler Effect”

For those not into darts or perhaps living under a rock in recent months, Luke Littler is the latest sensation to have hit the darts world by coming onto our screens as a 16 year old in the 2024 PDC World Darts Championship. Whilst the general public have only known him for the last six months, Luke himself has been playing darts all his life from an 18 month old when his dad bought him a magnetic dartboard set from the local pound shop. He has actually been known about by many well before the recent World Championship. An old friend of mine called his game against Beau Grieves in the final of the 2019 Isle of Man Open Youth Singles Champs. Luke was just 12 at the time against the older 15 year old Greaves.

Here's Luke’s achievements in just the last six months:

  • Runner-up at the 2024 PDC World Darts Championships and beating former World Champion’s Christian Kist and Raymond van Barneveld along the way. He also became the youngest darts player ever in a World Darts Championship final.

  • Winner of the Bahrain Darts Masters (on debut) and hitting his first televised nine-dart finish along the way. He beat MvG in the final 8-5.

  • Runner-up at the Dutch Darts Masters and beat current World Champ, Luke Humphries during that tournament.

  • Winner of the Players Championship 1 (on debut).

  • 1/4 finalist at the 2024 UK Open hitting a 170 finish vs. James Wade in the process.

  • Winner of the 2024 Belgian Darts Open.

  • Winner of the 2024 Austrian Darts Open.

  • Winner of the 2024 Premier League Darts and hitting a nine-darter in the final.

There was a huge backlash early on this year in social media as many claimed that he didn’t deserve his spot in the Premier League. A competition that went on for 17 weeks against the best dart players in the world. I think he proved them wrong by winning it in late May!

So, have we ever had a darts superstar appear at such a young age on the world stage before? Is Luke Littler a phenomenon, the likes of which we haven’t ever seen before?

The most recent and common comparison would be none other than MvG, Michael van Gerwen himself. Michael started playing darts at around the age of 13, but at the tender age of 17 Michael won the 2006 World Masters then the following year at the 2007 Masters of Darts he threw a televised nine-dart finish. Sound familiar?

In the early days a “cheeky” darts player named Eric Bristow burst onto the professional darts scene as a teenager. Along with team mate John Lowe, Eric Bristow at just 20 years old won the WDF Men's World Cup Pairs event in late 1977. He was also part of England’s winning World Cup team to travel to Nelson, New Zealand four years later in early October 1981.

Bristow won the Belgium Open in early 1978 and soon after, whilst still just 20 won the British Darts Open and pocketed a cool £1,000 for his troubles. He was quickly nicknamed "The Crafty Cockney" when he visited an English pub in California of that name when he was just 19. That name stuck given the way that he played his game of darts, with a crafty attitude that sometimes rubbed opponents up the wrong way. At just 22, Bristow won the first of five World Darts Championships but beating Bobby George 5-3 in the 1980 final. On that, Jelle Klaasen became the youngest darts player to win the World Darts Championship, aged just 21 back in 2006.

Recently, another 16 year old from Belgium, Born van Put made headlines as he debuted as the youngest player to feature on the European professional tour at the Belgian Open in early March this year. The same tournament Littler made his debut on the European Tour. van Put’s debut was less than memorable though as he lost in the first round.

So why make a big deal out of a young teenage dart player who’s not exactly the first young player we have seen on the professional darts circuit over the years?

Well, since Luke Littler’s run in the 2024 World Darts Championship which saw a record t.v. audience of over 4.8 million people tune in to watch the final. It’s said that the “peak audience” of 3.71 million people is the highest ever non-football viewing on Sky Sports. The sport of darts has exploded since then as Luke continues to be the biggest marketing tool for the sport of darts, ever. This is in a similar fashion to that of how Taylor Swift has been for the NFL. Swift has effectively generated an additional US$331.5 million in brand value for the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL, according to Apex Marketing in February this year.

Littler’s achievements, albeit in a very short space of time has seen record darts sales with Littler’s dart suppliers, Target Darts running out of supply globally of the Gen1 darts that Littler uses. Even today, supply of his darts is patchy at best and they’re at the more expensive end of available darts on the market today.

Luke is clearly a very special player, what a record he has amassed in just the first six months of 2024. Its exciting to see such a young force in darts with such a composed head on his shoulder’s. Could he become the youngest ever World Champion at some stage? Time will tell. One thing is for sure. That the dart’s world has surely been captivated by the “Littler effect” in the first half of 2024 and will be keen to see what the rest of 2024 and beyond has in store.

Straight arrows everyone.

Paul Webber

Owner - Bullseye Darts


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