Tackling Gender Inequality in Darts
The image of darts was, for many years, one of men playing in pubs and clubs, with major tournament garnished by walk-on girls to add a bit of glamour.
During the eighties, darts was a mainstream sport with players such as John Lowe and Eric Bristow household names and often featuring in televised matches. It was far from misogynistic, but there was a certain male bias to the sport which continued through into the current century.
The times are changing fast though and Fallon Sherrock’s victory against Ted Evetts in December 2019 was the first time a female competitor had beaten a male in the PDC World Championship. Sherrock was already a strong competitor in the female ranks as we reported here, but overnight she became a poster girl for a generation of female darts players.
Sherrock suddenly found herself everywhere, with Good Morning Britain bringing her on to play Piers Morgan, whom she promptly beat. Sherrock’s appearance on there helped drive her achievements, and those of fellow female darts players, home to a wider audience.
Good Morning Britain had also been at the forefront of the drive to get rid of walk-on girls a year or so before Sherrock’s appearance, and the debate around walk-on girls in darts was again raised on another morning TV show, the hugely successful This Morning. Gala Bingo reveals that This Morning is the most popular daytime TV show in the United Kingdom and they had broached the subject of removing walk-on girls almost two years prior to Sherrock’s recent heroics. Two walks on girls appeared on This Morning, along with journalist Sally Howard, debating the presence of models parading before male matches. However despite support for walk-on girls, they were still stopped in Jan 2018 by the Professional Darts Corporation.
Whilst debate and discussion do help raise awareness, seeing a female reach a level of achievement is a completely different dynamic. It not only raises the profile of the game within the female community, but also helps inspire younger players. Sherrock, a 25-year-old from Milton Keynes, followed up her victory against Evetts with a win against 11th seed Mensur Suljović, which earned her the nickname ‘Queen of the Palace’ after the Alexandra Palace, PDC venue.
“I feel really proud of myself for helping to put the ladies’ game out there,” she said after being catapulted to national fame.
“Every game I play now, whether it’s an exhibition or on TV, I’m not going to think too much that I have to represent them as that would put so much pressure on myself. I don’t do pressure.”
Whilst the pressure is not on Sherrock, there is some on the world of darts to become even more welcoming to female competitors at the PDC. Barry Hearn has promised to ring-fence the two female spots on the oche for women in the PDC, whilst Sherrock and fellow female player Lisa Ashton made history by being the first women to appear at the Ladbrokes UK Open in over a decade, although both were eliminated in the first round. Kyle McKinstry ended Sherrock’s early hopes with a stunning 128 check-out, finishing on the bullseye.
Whilst it was a disappointing start to 2020 for darts golden girl, it won’t dampen the rise of gender equality within darts, with women now being taken seriously as competitors and viewed as far more than a warm-up act before the action takes place.
Photo Credit – Lawrence Lustig