Meet the prodigy who turned darts into a multi-million dollar sport

Meet the prodigy who turned darts into a multi-million dollar sport

British teenager Luke Littler is not yet old enough to buy a drink or drive a car, but he has already made millions of dollars and gained hundreds of thousands of fans on social media by playing… darts.

The traditional pastime of pubs or beach houses in Brazil is a traditional sport in the UK, but it is not very popular – at least not yet.

The teenager's life changed at the end of last year, when he surprisingly reached the final of a major UK darts tournament, beating opponents who were more than twice his age.

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The final was watched by 3.7 million people in the UK. In addition to being the biggest audience ever for a data-driven tournament, the decision was the most-watched programme in Sky Sports history, excluding football broadcasts.

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Despite losing that final, Luke Littler became an instant celebrity in England. His Instagram following soared from 4,000 to over a million. He also became a regular on talk shows, a friend of celebrities, and was welcomed as a star by the players of his favourite club, Manchester United.

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This year, Little competed in the English Premier Darts League for the first time. He finished top of the qualifying round and won the knockout stage in the final, which was played in front of a crowd of 14,000 in a London arena.

He received a prize money of US$350,000 (R$1.848 million) for winning the Premier League. Since January, he has collected US$825,000 (R$4.356 million). Including sponsorships and other prizes, Forbes estimates that Littler will earn more than US$1.5 million (R$7.92 million) from playing darts in 2024.

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Luke Littler enters the field before his final Premier Darts League match (Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs)

It is worth noting that because he is a minor, Littler cannot advertise for betting shops and liquor stores, whose brands are the biggest sponsors of the sport. Its main sponsor is the youth clothing brand.

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Yes, he’s far from one of the world’s highest-paid athletes. But his agents and sponsors can already see Littler doing to the dice what Tiger Woods did to golf two decades ago: the kid who turned a niche sport into a popular phenomenon.

Data transfer leaders are already talking about the “Luke Littler effect”, with the value of sponsorships increasing and the audience (and TV audience) for games growing. But he doesn’t seem to care much about how much he makes. “I don’t really care about business. I just play darts every week and try to win,” says Littler, who still lives with his parents in a small town in the northwest of England, where he spends most of his time playing FIFA and Fortnite.

“All I do is get on a plane, sleep, play darts and relax,” he says. “But I’m happy to say I’ve made it more popular as a sport.”

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About the Author: Lizzie Gray

"Lifelong web fan. Incurable internet junkie. Avid bacon guru. Social media geek. Reader. Freelance food scholar."

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