#WED Supports – Defence Darts

By means of introduction we are WO2 Lee Fox (Parachute Regiment) and Cpl Zara Warhurst (RAF Mover). We are both based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Back in July we were involved in setting up a mess function in the WOSM (Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess). The event itself was darts themed, Zara was approached as she had previously helped organised a similar function in the Falklands in 2021 and due to having an Uncle who is 3 x world champion and a PDC premier league winner she also has some connections, a no brainer really as Zara has a real passion for both the military and the darts, so to bring both together was a great opportunity. The event itself was a huge success, tickets had sold out within days in anticipation, with ticket sales, the auction and the raffle we raised over £8,500 for SSAFA, as well as many people commenting that it was the best function they’d ever attended.

This event proved that many people enjoyed the darts, not just spectating but also playing, if that was the case at Brize alone then surely this would be similar on other stations/barracks too. We started to put the word out and soon gained support of some high ranking officers across all three services who also enjoyed the darts and agreed it should be a recognised sport.  After speaking to the relevant sports boards we found out what boxes we needed to tick in order to make it happen.

To evidence the interest, Zara started a spreadsheet of names of personnel across defence who play darts, this started to gain traction and we now have over 600 names on the list, personnel from all 3 services and a range of all ranks from private to Air Cdre. We started to appoint camp representatives who could then speak to each other and arrange fixtures, this was fantastic, a first of its kind. We knew there’d be more out there, so to enable the word to be spread and people to speak more freely Zara created “The Defence Darts Community” (The DDC) on Facebook which is growing by the day. This has given people a platform to talk everything darts. Zara asked a question on the group if anyone would like to get involved with playing in a DDC Online darts league and had over 100 responses within an hour. So SSgt Gareth Walters of the AGC stepped up and created a website placing people in leagues based on ability and we had 130 people register to play across 11 different leagues. While this is fantastic getting together to play remotely, it’s the meeting new people and talking over a game that makes it what it is for me (largely because I’m terrible at darts).

After looking through the spreadsheet Zara created there were over 30 people at RAF Brize Norton alone, so I decided to form a darts team and entered us into the local West Oxon and Witney league, this gained huge interest, not only within the station, but also across social media we soon gained attraction and companies were wanting to sponsor us in our maiden season. Darts Corner (leading online darts shop) offered to use their brand “Mission” and make us free shirts to play in, The Sportsmans Management company who manage some of the world’s best players offered to pay for our food for the season and Pressed for time (a local cleaning company) wash and iron our shirts week in week out. The season is going really well and going into the new year we’re currently sitting at the top of the league. While that’s fantastic, it’s not our main effort, we have people of all ranks in the team, from Squadron leaders – Air Specialist 1s, we also have females on the team, one of the most inclusive sports out there that doesn’t discriminate and it’s a fantastic platform to get together, out of our rooms or houses and talk, people coming together who may not of had that opportunity to meet and talk. We have also found out that the armed forces of Malta have a darts team, they have extended an invite for the UKAF darts team to go over to Malta and take them on, who are we to stop international relations!

Given the success of the team and the sponsorship opportunities gained, we realised there was nowhere on camp where all ranks could get together and play darts, so Zara got a team together and they did a few recces to find a location on camp that was fit for purpose, she spoke to Darts Corner who manufactured our shirts and they agreed to donate four full set ups. Over the space of a week we managed to get all the kit and equipment needed to set the area up. A member of the darts team Cpl George Marchant decided we could give something back and came up with the idea of a sponsored 24hr dartathon, to mark the opening of the new facility and raising vital funds for SSAFA. We invited the owners of Darts Corner, Garry and Wayne, the owner of The Sports Management Company, Mac Elkin, and none other than the World number 10, professional player Damo “The Heat” Heta to come down and help open it. The Heat kick started the 24hour dartathon against Chief Of The Air Staff (CAS), a match that we’re obliged to tell you ended in a draw. The fundraiser helped raise £1,500 taking the total raised for SSAFA, by the DDC in 2023, to £10,000.

Not only are we trying to get darts recognised as a sport but we’re also keen to help raise the profile of darts across defence, we’re holding a huge event called Operation BULLSEYE in July 2024. We have 16 professional players attending and taking part in a pairs event. Each pro will be paired with Serving/Veteran personnel, who will have earned their spot by winning one of the qualifying tournaments being held between January and May. On top of this Bullseye, the TV show have been in touch and are keen to get involved too, this is massive and the use of their mascot to help promote our event can only be seen as a huge bonus, watch this space.

As you can see, the journey so far is snowballing, it’s amazing to be a part of, Zara has taken this is on alongside a busy job in Exports, Air Cargo, 1AMW, and a hectic family schedule being a single parent to 3 children. To see a junior rank breaking through barriers and building a community of over 600 people that share the same passion, not only allowing them to organise fixtures and talk darts but also getting people to talk in general, getting people out of their rooms and getting together in a great environment, there are a lot of people involved in making this happen but it’s all stemmed from Cpl Warhursts Passion, initiative, drive and determination.

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