For in excess of four decades there has been no more charismatic, dedicated or controversial character in world darts than Olly Croft OBE. Sadly Olly passed away last November at the grand old age of 90. The world of darts just won't be the same without him.
I was privileged to have met Olly on a number of occasions and always found him to be very amenable and helpful. He and his colleagues on the BDO transformed darts during the 1970s and we who love the game of darts should all be extremely grateful.
When Olly first joined a darts team in the London Super League in 1967 he was hooked and soon became involved with the organisation of the league. At that time darts was in the doldrums and although there was an extant national darts association it was floundering and becoming ineffective. Olly, a self-made businessman, visualised the potential of darts and set about changing the game forever. He had 'massive aspirations' for darts locally, nationally and globally and he was to achieve them all.
After several meetings with interested parties during 1971 and 1972, Olly invited darts organisers from across the country to meet at his home in Muswell Hill in north London in January 1973 to formally discuss the setting up of a new national darts organisation. The British Darts Organisation (BDO) was established and from that day forth the game of darts was transformed, first into a national and subsequently, by the establishment of the World Darts Federation (WDF) in 1977, a world sport. Darts was no longer confined to the public house. It was all around, at live venues and on television.
Players who had only previously played in pubs for money found themselves thrust on stage in front of the television cameras at major BDO-organised events; some, such as Eric Bristow, John Lowe and Jocky Wilson, becoming household names.
It seemed that nothing could stop the darts juggernaut, ruthlessly driven by Olly and the men and women of the BDO and beside him at all times at the wheel was his beloved wife Lorna. There have been some challenges to and criticisms of the BDO over the years but these were all overcome. Everyone toed the BDO line. Darts was Olly Croft and Olly Croft was darts.
But when the key terrestrial TV companies changed tack in the mid-to-late 1980s and more or less completely ceased broadcasting darts, the BDO seemed unable or perhaps unwilling to maintain the momentum and there was grumbling in the growing ranks of professional
This resulted in what has become known as 'The Split' where sixteen so-called 'rebel' professionals, in company with their managers and some members of the darts industry, broke away from the BDO and formed the World Darts Council (WDC) later to become known as the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). Darts now had two organising bodies so the legal wrangling began.
Olly remained at the head of the BDO through good times and not so good times until 2011 when he was unceremoniously relieved of his position within the organisation by people he had always considered his friends; something that Olly had much difficulty coming to terms with.
His 40-year association with the BDO had ended but his love of darts never waned and he kept an eye on all that was going on with the 'new' BDO and indeed with the progress of the PDC.
I met Olly on a number of occasions (the meeting shown here was at the BDO Teenage Open held at Towerlands, Braintree, Essex in 2010). We would discuss everything to do with darts. In fact we did have a couple of meetings at his home in Muswell Hill during which we talked about Olly writing his side of the story. Regrettably, that project was ultimately shelved. What a story that would have been!
Sadly, the legend that is Olly Croft passed away on 23rd November 2019. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Dr. Darts' Newsletter 112 - Januar 2020