Luke Littler’s impact on darts in the North East

Over the last three weeks, “generational talent” Luke Littler took the world of darts by storm. The 16-year-old reached the PDC World Championship final on Wednesday evening at the first time of asking. It was not a fairytale ending for the Runcorn-born darts player however, as he fell to a 7-4 defeat to world number one Luke Humphries.

2W9F5T7 Alexandra Palace, London, UK. 27th Dec, 2023. 2023/24 PDC Paddy Power World Darts Championships Day 10 Evening Session; Luke Littler in action on the oche Credit: Action Plus Sports/Alamy Live News

The impact Littler has had on darts cannot be understated. Sky Sports recently revealed the viewing figures for the final, with 4.8 million people tuning into watch. This is the highest recorded non-football audience ever for the broadcaster, and there was no doubt the 16-year-old had a huge part to play.

Following his success he was included in the Premier League, which starts in Cardiff on 1st February 2024. He will compete against Humphries, Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall, Gerwyn Price, Rob Cross and Peter Wright week in, week out at venues across Europe.

SportsByte reached out to Darts Academy North East, based in Blyth for children aged seven to 18, Jack Langston – an ex-Professional Darts Corporation referee and Christian Allen – an optometrist and avid darts fan from Liverpool for their reactions to the new kid on the block.

Langston exclusively told SportsByte: “I am extremely impressed, but not surprised at how well he has done, and how well he has coped. He has shown for such a long time now that he is more than capable of doing this.”

He added: “I did not think he would make the final, but I thought he would have won a few games at least.”

Darts Academy North East echoed Langston’s comments, telling SportsByte: “I have been massively impressed, but not entirely surprised. Luke has been the name on everyone’s lips in the darting fraternity for the past four years.”

There was no doubt his ability captured everyone’s attention, but at 16 he is the youngest ever player to reach a World Championship final.

Allen said: “Littler has really shown how exciting darts can be to watch, his averages and results were incredible.”

And his success was compared to that of Fallon Sherrock in the women’s game by Langston.

“It is getting people interested in darts who were not really fussed by it originally. It is nice to have more people watching the game who do not tend to watch it all the time.”

The North East Darts Academy also described Littler as a “generational talent, a once in a lifetime type of player.”

With his inclusion in the Premier League, questions may be asked whether he will be able to sustain this form over a prolonged period of time. There have been occasions when darts players have blown everyone away and their form has then dipped.

2TMK45W Luke Littler celebrates after winning against Christian Kist (not pictured) on day six of the Paddy Power World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Wednesday December 20, 2023.

But both Langston and the North East Darts Academy do not think it will be a problem.

Langston said: “I don’t see why not, I think he is going to continue what he does and smash people. He’s got so much experience for a young kid, but at the same time shows no fear. He is so focused on darts.”

The North East Darts Academy added: “He has literally dominated the scene, winning many adult opens in various countries around Europe, culminating in him qualifying to play at the Lakeside World Championships at the age of 14.

“So yes he can definitely sustain this level of form for the foreseeable future.”

Littler being only 16 has been one of the biggest headlines to come out of the 2024 World Championships. And his age is why Allen was a little more sceptical as to whether he can sustain this form on the big stage.

“2024 is going to be a very busy year for Luke, with him being ranked in the top 32 and also with him being included in the Premier League.

“He will be competing in various tournaments with an incredible amount of travelling that could take its toll throughout the season.”

Some of the attention that Littler has received has been blasted by former World Champion Gary Anderson, who told the media: “Let the boy play darts. You did the same thing with Josh Rock, and set him back two or three years. He’s playing really well. Let him play darts.”

2WACEKC Luke Littler of England throws his dart during the final match against Luke Humphries of England at the World Darts Championship, in London, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Littler’s success and media attention has led to an increase in more people wanting to play darts, however.

Darts fanatic Allen said: “More people will take up darts after watching Luke and the success he had.”

North East Darts Academy credits him with growing the game in the local area: “Over the Christmas period, we have had numerous enquiries from parents wanting their children to come along and play darts.

“Hopefully we continue to see the growth of our sport and we see more and more youngsters give darts a go, and can see it is another viable sporting option as well as the normal sports choices.”

And the North East Darts Academy can say something that not many players and academies can currently.

“Our claim to fame is that Dan Stephenson was the last person to beat Littler at the WDF British Youth Grand Prix in Bridlington [before Wednesday’s final].”

Speaking of the affect Littler has had on darts, Langston claimed that no other player has ever had the same influence, especially on youngsters.

“Every single person at school is going to be talking about Luke Littler. You never really had that with Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen or Peter Wright.

They [school children] were not going back to school and talking about them. They’re going to be saying ‘look at what this kid our age is doing.’”