While darts is more popular now than it has ever been, it is still not the most monied of world sports. Nor is it the most glamourous with many still considering it to be a dusty old pub game.
The invention of the PDC, which only broke away because the BDO made poor money, was designed to smarten up and professionalise the game’s image and has been, for the most part, successful in doing that.
And while darters will never earn the same as a Premier League footballer, playing the game professionally can still provide a decent, if not spectacular, income.
But how much exactly do they earn?
Obviously, they are not paid by the week like some sportsmen are so this is very much performance-based and darts events don’t always carry the biggest purse. But, over the course of a career, even a modestly successful darts star should be more than comfortable in retirement.
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One of the good things about darts is that fitness isn’t really an issue meaning that players can play as long as they want. Peter Wright, who quit the game for two decades, won the 2022 PDC World Darts Championship at the age of 51. That’s only five years younger than Phil Taylor was when he retired as the most successful darts player ever. Now, Snakebite is a millionaire.
There aren’t many millionaire darts players out there, but The Power certainly will be one of them. Taylor, who used to make his living making ceramic toilet roll handles, collected £7.1 million over his career at the oche.
And while sponsorship and merchandise will likely take his money in to double figures millions wise, that’s not particularly a lot considering how much he dominated a professional sport for all those years.
Basically, we are not talking about footballers who earn a guaranteed half a million pounds per week, we’re talking about sports people who have made a good living and where only a small select group of elite players have made any real money.
How Much Does A Player Earn?
In reality, to earn anything worthwhile a player should at least be among the best 16 players in the world. Better still, the top 10. Of course, a single tournament win in one of the top PDC events can make for relatively nice pay, but the real money is to be made with sustained success.
However, the PDPA levy every player has to pay from their prize money is 2%. On top of that, players need to pay their managers if they have them and most of the big names will.
Some players may have to pay for their own travel and accommodation, although the higher profile players will sometimes get that paid for them through a sponsorship deal. These sponsorship deals are arranged by sports management firms so they will take a cut of that too, as well as any prize money.
Beware The Tax Man
Many professional darts players are actually registered as limited companies meaning they pay a hefty amount of tax which they need to declare over the course of the year. When Adrian Lewis won his first world title, lost track of his finances, and having spent his money throughout the year, was hit with an unexpected massive tax bill he hadn’t budgeted for.
Unfortunately for Lewis, this wasn’t the first time he has seen his winnings diminish. In 2005, when playing in the Las Vegas Desert Classic aged just 20, Lewis broke the local law by unknowingly gambling under age at the MGM Grand Casino. Ironically, this is how he earned his professional nickname ‘Jackpot’.
Today, the World Championship pays £500,000 to the winner as part of its £2.5 million pot. £10,000 of that goes to the players union and the rest will go into a player’s bank account. From there, the taxman will eventually take their cut.
When it comes to exhibition games, players can anything from £250 to £20,000 for one night’s work. The amount that they can command will obviously depend on the size of their profile.
Today, the likes of Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen can pretty much charge whatever they want, and the top players usually have a fixed fee. Even then though, it’s up to the promoter to pay that fee or at least attempt to negotiate it.
Again though, there are plenty of players that have won major titles but then slipped down the rankings so are unable to command the same fees as when they were at their peak. Adrian Lewis being among them. At the end of the day, ticket sales will dictate and the big names are the draw.
As with a lot of top sportsman, the very best players in world darts will need to do a lot of travelling. Only last month, there were players who, in the space of a week, having played in the Darts Premier League in Brighton, flew to Prague for the Czech Darts Open before moving on to Budapest for a big exhibition. Then its was on to London and Stuttgart. That’s a busy week.
Not long after that, the top players travelled to New York for the first event of the World Series Tour. Other stops along the way include Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and The Netherlands. And while flying isn’t as expensive as it used to be, not all of them will be flying business class in luxury.
Working Class Made Good
Darts is a working-class sport and many of the players don’t come from money. That’s not too problematic with this game because all you really need to get started is a set of darts, a board and a wall (or a good pub).
However, unless a professional is a regular winner, it makes it hard to make regular payments for something such as a mortgage. Most darters aren’t driving around in fancy cars or living lavish lifestyles, they just want to buy a home, put food on the table and generally provide for their families.
So, for the lower-ranked players it can be a very hard living and many maintain a second job. Everything they have hinges on their performance.
Even Jonny Clayton, who earned a cool £500,000 in 2021, refuses to quit his part-time job as a plasterer for his local council. That’s hard when you need to find the time to practise and now that he has established himself as one of the best in the world that may change soon.
However, one good earning year is no guarantee it will happen again. Former electrician Rob Cross springs to mind. Voltage is also a former world champion and has won some other major tournaments too, but he also had more than enough baron years.
Of course, the more you win, the greater the weight of pressure is lifted. There was a point a few years ago when Nathan Aspinall famously only had £19 left in his bank account. One quick run to the World Championship semi-finals and a triumph at the UK Open and now he doesn’t have to worry about money anymore. He was a totally different player after that and paid for his family’s home outright with his winnings.
Next Live Darts
Live PDC Darts returns on 16th July when the game’s second-biggest event, the Darts World Matchplay rolls into Blackpool.
The summer’s biggest darts tournament runs until 24th July at the Winter Gardens and will see 32 of the world’s best players such as Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen and reigning champion Peter Wright fight it out for the Phil Taylor Trophy.