Pick a nickname: darts shows DerbyWheel how it’s done

The Gorilla, Andre Greipel at the 2021 Tour of Britain (SWpix.com)

Cycling is no stranger to a nickname. We’ve had the Cannibal, the Badger and the Pirate. More recently, Purito and Spartacus, Wiggo and the Manx Missile, the Shark and the Gorilla. You’ll often hear them in commentary. You might see them painted on the road, or represented in a custom paint job on a frame.

But DerbyWheel looks set to take things a step further, learning a lesson from another sport which has gone from under-performer to prime-time in recent years.

DerbyWheel competitors have been asked to suggest their own official nicknames, which will be printed on their race kit.

‘Raw materials of a hit’

The mandatory adoption of catchy nicknames is said to have been the first innovation of British sports entrepreneur Barry Hearn, when he took control of darts some 20 years ago.

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‘In sport, you have to be famous. You cannot be a secret. So the first job was to widen the net,’ he told GQ Magazine in 2021, ‘to make sure they were personalities in their own right, hence the nicknames, the entry music, etc.’

Hearn’s success, not only in darts but in snooker and boxing previously, is a natural model for DerbyWheel. A 2019 article in The Ringer tells the story of how we went to watch a darts tournament, and found ‘a mass-participation sport being played by oddly endearing blokes — the raw materials of a hit’.

‘Good money’

When Hearn started in darts, the prize fund was £ 500,000 shared among all players, for an entire year. Per player, that worked out at less than £ 10,000 – meaning all but a handful were part-timers.

‘The very top darts players now earn well over £1 million a year each,’ Hearn explained. ‘The average professional probably makes £50,000 to £100,000. It’s not Premier League football money, but it’s good money.’

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Hearn’s Professional Darts Corporation now sells out arenas across the UK and into Europe, with its Premier League Darts events broadcast live on Sky Sports. It is second only to Premier League football in terms of ratings on the network, far ahead of sports like golf and rugby.

Many of the same stars also compete in the PDC Pro Tour, whose 30 non-televised events in the UK and Germany can take place in near silence. Action is streamed online via the PDC website and gambling platforms worldwide.

Global Keirin hears that many riders have been struggling to choose a suitable nickname. If we review a database of darts nicknames, we find most are a variation on the player’s name, or a horrible pun. Some refer to a physical characteristic, or to the player’s job away from the sport. And some…well, there’s probably a story behind them.