Luke Littler's darts stardom prompts 'huge spike' in UK sales as 16-year-old grips nation

From Alexandra Palace to Luke Littler's home town pub, Andrew Misra and Ian Woods cover all the excitement ahead of tonight's World Darts Championship Final

By Lily Ford, ITV News Multimedia Producer

The meteoric rise to darts stardom for 16-year-old Luke Littler has prompted a "huge spike in interest" in the sport, according to a UK-based global darts retailer.

Darts Corner's managing director has told ITV News the company has seen double digit percentile growth almost every day in the build-up to Wednesday's PDC World Darts Championship Final.

Littler is the youngest ever player to reach the finals - and has had a whirlwind two weeks in the competition.

"Luke Littler's performance has captured the hearts of the nation," Craig Heenighan said.

"It's clearly had had a huge impact. It's not often that darts is on every radio station and on the back of every newspaper.

"It's a hot debate of how far Luke will go and will Luke win it?

"It's clearly transpired into an increase in popularity and an increase in orders and sales over the last three weeks."

Mr Heenighan said he also believes the introduction of Paddy Power - the tournament's official sponsor, who have pledged to donate £1,000 to Prostate Cancer UK for every 180 hit during the championship - has helped keep up the momentum.

But what is it about Luke Littler that makes his story so gripping?

"If you think of elite-level sports, what 16-year-old could compete and make it to the final and have a have a really strong chance of winning?" Mr Heenighan continued.

"And it's not as though he's scraped through, he's been quite convincing in the wins he's had.

"And I also just think it's probably the way he's gone about it. He doesn't look overawed. He's got a huge amount of composure.

"He seems very at home on stage, which is incredible for a 16-year-old."

Littler celebrates at the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Credit: PA

Littler recently revealed he will be sticking with his diet of cheese and ham omelettes and pizza, as well as waking up at 12pm, ahead of the final.

Mr Heenighan added the teenager's performance has inspired a younger generation, and could impact the UK's relationship with darts for years to come.

"I think with the younger boys and girls around the country, looking at Luke, at the age of 16.... We've all seen the videos on TV of him playing (darts) in his nappy at 18 months old.

"I think that (says to) a new generation that darts is actually quite cool. And (they think): 'I could be quite good at darts.'

"And I think it just breathes new life, perhaps, into a new generation looking at the sport."

Justin Irwin, a self-proclaimed "darts nerd" and darts player, is the mind behind Capital Arrows, a website mapping every single central London pub with dart boards.

Mr Irwin told ITV News that his website has seen an increase in visits over the last few weeks.

Littler will take on Luke Humphries in the final. Credit: PA

"There's always a big increase in interest around the time of year because of the World Championships, but obviously, that's often quite limited to people who already liked darts," he said.

"I think anecdotally, I've certainly seen a lot more interest from people who didn't previously like darts, like in my personal life, and in my other professional life as well.

"Specifically in my website, Capital Arrows, which even yesterday was one of the busiest days ever. And certainly the busiest day in the last month.

"So in terms of the World Championship, it would seem that there's been a peak as the Luke Littler story has got bigger and bigger. And as he's continued to astound people."

Mr Irwin added that the draw to Littler's success is down to its "unusual" nature.

"As a sporting story, it's very unusual," he said.

"There was probably similar excitement when Boris Becker won Wimbledon the first time because he was 17. And unseeded, unheard of pretty much.

Fans on day fifteen of the Paddy Power World Darts Championship. Credit: PA

"You see him throw a dart on the TV and he looks like a seasoned professional, he looks like he's been doing it forever and ever.

"But when you hear him talk, you suddenly remember he's a 16-year-old. He's not been doing it for long.

"It's just quite a young man who's astounded by what's happening to him. It's just quite sweet, a piece of good news. Think everyone loves a piece of good news."

It might also prove "aspirational" for people watching at home - something that will have an impact on the sport for years to come, Mr Irwin said, as interest in darts continues to grow.

Mr Heenighan added the pick-up in darts has continued to grow year-on-year since the pandemic.

"The popularity grows year-on-year," he said. "I think this year probably ignited more interest than ever."

After seeing off six world-class players, Littler is now set to play Luke Humphries in the final to fulfill his dream of lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy on Wednesday.

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