Patrick Chaplin: Darts History

The Sports Argus Charity Darts Squad

The Sports Argus team 2009The Sports Argus team 2009

THE SPORTS ARGUS CHARITY DARTS SQUAD

“CAN THIS BE BEATEN?”

That’s the question posed by Ken Herbert, the present Team Manager of the long-established and highly successful Birmingham-based Sports Argus Charity Darts Squad; a team of dedicated dart-players that for over sixty years has been raising money for good causes.

Ken told me, “The Sports Argus Charity Darts Squad are now half way through their sixty-second successive season and the question is often asked “Are we the longest continuously running charity squad in the country?”” Ken asked me for my help and I looked through my records and then told him that, in all my years of darts research I have never come across a team like the Sports Argus for continuity and dedication to raising funds through their love of darts for good causes. I personally have no doubt in my mind that the Sports Argus with over 60 years of continuous fund raising is the oldest and longest running charity darts team. However, I could be wrong (but I do not think so).

I asked Ken about the history of the team. He told me, “Way back in August 1947 the Sports Argus Charity Darts Squad played their first ever charity darts match. Throughout the rest of that year a series of trial games were played around Birmingham in order to select a squad to represent the Sports Argus. At that time the Manager of the squad was local darts correspondent Mr. Harry Beesley known as ‘Treble Twenty’.

The earliest known photograph of the team circa early 1950sThe earliest known photograph of the team circa early 1950s

The squad consisted of local darts enthusiasts and was formed specifically to take on local teams and representative sides throughout the Midlands, whilst at the same time raise revenue for various charities. Ken said, “That first match in August 1947 was a friendly against the B.S.A. Small Heath, Birmingham which resulted in a 4-4 draw. This was followed with the Squad’s first serious competitive game against a B.S.A. Combine team and the result was a 6-3 win for the Sports Argus.

Early games were tough and up to 1957 all matches were nine-a-side, one leg, 301-up, double start. The majority of games nowadays are best of three legs, 501 up.”

Harry Beesley continued as team manager until his death in 1964. The team was then taken over by sports correspondent Bill Bailey who remained in charge for ten years. On Bill’s retirement in 1974 Ken was invited to become team manager, a position he still proudly holds today.

Ken told me, “Over the sixty-two years the Sports Argus Charity Darts Squad has been in existence less than one hundred and eighty players have represented the team with several of the current line up have been members for over 20 years. Captain Derek Duggan together with Jim Norris joined the squad in 1982; Bob Nixon was invited in 1985 whilst Mark Wall has been a member since 1991. Top names from the past include former English international and the original ‘King of the Midlands’ Brian Vaux, Paul Tunley who was selected for the NDAGB (National Darts Association of Great Britain) squad against the U.S.A. in 1972 and Bernard Manton won the world’s first amateur darts championship in Jamaica. Of course, there have been many more top Midland throwers playing for the team.”

Since 1947 the Squad has been travelling the Midlands, playing a series of up to thirty games each year. By March 2009 the Squad had played an amazing 1,725 games, winning 1,581 and losing just 144; that’s a winning percentage of in excess of 91%!

Over the years the Squad has raised an enormous amount of money for charity. Ken told me, “Unfortunately I have no records of the exact amount the Squad raised for charity prior to 1977 but I can tell you that since 1977 over £124,000 has been raised.”

These charity darts aces are currently coming to the end of their 63rd consecutive year. What a fantastic effort! Congratulations to all the players and everyone involved with the Sports Argus Charity Darts Squad and long may you continue raising thousands of pounds for good causes.

So the challenge has been issued. Do you know of any charity-based darts team that has been fund-raising longer than the Sports Argus? If so, why not drop me a line via my Contact page. Even if you have not been fund-raising for as long as the Sports Argus why not write to me anyway and tell me about your exploits darting for charity?

© 2010 Patrick Chaplin (with special thanks to Ken Herbert)

The Sports Argus Charity Darts Squad is sponsored by Davon Garage Equipment Ltd.