The man who brought World Darts to Bridlington has sadly died at the age of 90.
Olly Croft OBE, who was the founder of the British Darts Organisation (BDO), headed up the sport during the 1980’s and 90’s when players became household names.
Darts stars such as Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams, John ‘Boy Walton, Andy Fordham, Ted Hankey and Dutch supremo Raymond Barneveld took to the oche in Bridlington and brought thousands of supporters to the town.
Colin Croft, who is the immediate past Mayor of Bridlington and brother of Olly, paid tribute and thanked everyone who sent messages of condolences to him.
“Olly loved Bridlington and dedicated his life to darts. The first time I came to Bridlington was with Olly in the early 2000’s and I too really took to the town and the friendliness of the people….in fact I liked it so much I moved her with my wife Bridie several years later,”
Olly founded the BDO in 1973 and remained as a director until 2011. He was also honorary President of the World Darts Federation and was responsible for the staging of the first Darts World Cup in 1977.
The darts tournaments, which were held at Bridlington Spa and the former Leisure World (now ER Leisure), saw the town showcased to a worldwide audience of millions as the cameras often went around the town capturing the scenery to use a montages throughout the programming.
Added Colin: “Olly was a wonderful character and I am proud to call him my brother…he will be sadly missed not just by us, but everyone in the world of darts.”
Cyril Skinner, who was a sports reporter with the local paper, looks back at the tournaments that were held in Bridlington
Hundred of darts fans, myself included, were pleased to hear that the Winmau World Masters Darts Tournament was returning to the Bridlington Spa.
This highly prestigious fixture on the BDO calendar first came to Bridlington in 2002 and was here for eight successful years, bringing much needed tourist trade to the town. So successful was the event that when the Spa closed for refurbishment it was thought it would have to move away from Bridlington, but so eager were the BDO and ERYC to keep it in Bridlington they staged the 2006 and 2007 events at Leisure World, a wise decision as the venue was packed to capacity on both occasions.
The event returned to the Spa for another two years, but with the Spa being unavailable for the 2010 World Masters on the only weekend that BBC TV could cover it, it was moved to Hull.
Several BDO officials and many of the leading darts players told me they were very disappointed at the move and said how they would have preferred to stay in Bridlington.
The 2002 event was won by Mark Dudbridge, from Bristol who admitted he didn’t expect to get far in his first TV appearance and didn’t bring a change of clothing and had to buy a new top in town for the final. Worth it as he picked up a winner’s £10,000 cheque, the runner up Tony West received £3,000.
West went one better the following year, 2003 when he beat Raymond Van Barneveld in the final.
The next two years at the Spa saw success for Mervyn King who beat Tony O’Shea in the 2004 final and Raymond Van Barneveld who overcame Goran Klemme in 2005.
The 2006 event will be remembered, not only as the first to be staged at Bridlington’s Leisure World but as the launching of teenage wonder kid Michael Van Gerwen. The 17 year-old made a remarkable come-back in the final where he was 5-2 down to Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams who was averaging 107, but MVG then produced some brilliant darts to take his first televised title 7-5. Little did I know that when I congratulated the winner when he returned to the player’s lounge that I would be shaking hands with who was to become, without doubt, the best darts player in the World. However, it was to be six more years before his next televised title win when he lifted the 2012 World Grand Prix setting him off on a brilliant future on the oche.
Another new name on the trophy followed in 2007 when Scotsman Robert Thornton beat Stockport based Darryl Fitton. An historical achievement happened at Leisure World this year when John ‘Boy’ Walton, who had won the title in 2001 recorded a televised nine-darter which is still the only one in the long history of this event: unlucky Chris Mason did the feat a few years earlier but it was only in a preliminary round so not televised.
Back to the Spa for the 2008 event where Martin Adams beat Scotty Waites, and ‘Wolfie’ beat Robbie Green to retain the title in 2009. The following year the event was staged at Hull City Hall and Adams made it three in a row, equalling Bob Anderson’s feat in 1986/7/8; the late Eric Bristow won it a record five times.
Prize money: In 2004 it was raised to £15,000; £3000 and in 2007 to its current £25,000; £10,000. The inaugural event in 1974 saw winner Cliff Inglis receive £400 with £200 going to runner-up Harry Heenan.