History of the Sport of Darts in Germany

Though the beginnings of the sport of darts in Germany are not really far in the past it is rather difficult to find out any details.

There is nothing known that darts was known in Germany before the Second World War. It looks it was the Second World War and the British, American and Canadian military present in Germany after the war who brought darts into the country.

German prisoners of war brought home darts from England. It's doubtful they ever played back at home with their friends as darts alone would have not been enough and one can't find indications they brought dartboards as well.

What happened in the first 25 years after the war no one seems to remember but one can assume that by the German civilians working for and with the military there existed people playing darts before the DDV, the national organisation, was founded in 1981.
Eddie Norman, international darts promoter and darts dealer, told that he had organised quite a few tournaments before 1970 on German cities like Heidelberg, Munich, Bremen and Berlin. Beside at this time he had already set up eight agents in Germany who traded his range from the International House of Darts in Bristol.

At the Unicorn World Championships in 1975 and 1976 participants from West Germany took part. Those participants were chosen by dart dealers might be Eddie Norman's agents. How they did choose those players is not really clear but probably they organised some kind of qualifying tournaments for the occasion.
1975 it were Roland Geuss and Roland Kaiser who took part. Both were from Freiburg and - as one can read at the Unicorn homepage - already played darts for around three years. 1976 Michael Fechner and Georg Egender, both from Donaueschingen, were the German participants and both already played for some years.
And all were - as Unicorn tells us - West German Champions.
Though there were German participants in London for the second Unicorn World Championship when the WDF was founded in 1976 Germany was not one of the founder members of the WDF might be because no kind of official organisation existed at that time.
What happened to the participants of the World Championship and where they played later I couldn´t find out. Nor is there any information whether they were accompanied by any official delegation or some kind of person in charge. Might be they were all alone - might be the dealer accompanied them to London.
In the DDV chronicle one can read when the members of dart clubs first met there were players from Freiburg but now-a-days not a single club from Freiburg can be found in the BWDV.

1979 there seem to have been 14 towns in West Germany one knew Darts were played and there existed seven registered clubs.
One of those town probably was Berlin where in Ray's Irish bar a lot of in Berlin stationed British met to play darts. They became friends with guests from other countries, there were Germans, American, Turks, people from Yugoslavia, France, Spain and Sweden and in 1981 they founded a club. The English and Irish members taught the others to play.
A similar club was Darts Extraordinaire where German and American air-force members played together. Darts Extraordinaire doesn´t exist any longer, it was disbanded at the beginning if the 1990s when the Americans left Berlin. Some of the players joined the club "Die Reifen" which was earlier splitted off Darts Extraordinaire. They still have contact with some British players and some American friends.
There was a third similar club in Berlin - the Jollys - but it doesn´t exist any longer.

But a lot of the dart clubs founded end of the 1970s or at the beginning of the 1980s das nothing to do at all with the military. The Germans had developed a special liking for Ireland and Irish pubs in those years, Irish pubs arose in Germany and of course a real Irish pub had a dartboard at the wall. Those were clubs with only German members. One of the oldest is the Irish Folk Pub Dart Club in Munich founded 1979. A lot of the early German top players started to play there and a lot of the British Top Players of the 1980s and 1990s played exhibitions in this pub.

In the same year one of the founder members of the DDV, which still exists today, the Dartclub Hameln was founded as well.
One of the early Dart clubs was founded in Bremen - the dart club Broadway e.v. As one of the members, the German legend Bernd Hebecker , remembers it was 1976 or 1977. The founder was the landlord Fips Sattler and it was played with brass darts on a paper board.
Most important for the development of the sport in those years were Wolfgang Damm, the first German champion, and Peter Hummel, later first president of the DDV. Tournaments were already played in Köln and Düsseldorf.

A lot more clubs were founded between 1980 and 1982 for example the "erste Kastellauner Dart Club" in December 1982, the "1.Dartclub Monchengladbach (might be this one was already founded in 1977), the "1.Dartclub Mühlheim (the Englishmen Colin Rice was one of the founders, he stayed in Mühlheim after his time with the British Army, didn't find a place were to play darts and so founded his "own" club), the "1. DSC Bochum (at this time DC Bananenwurf), the "Marburger Dartclub", the DC Wirtheim, the Dart Club Darmstadt (founded 1980), the DC Kehlheim and the DC 81 Karlsruhe, probably the oldest club in Baden.
One can assume there more clubs then are mentioned here and probably more of them still exist.
Clubs often come into being through contacts with the American, British and Canadian military and often they were clubs with mixed nationalities. The Ostwestfalen-Lippe-Steel- Dartliga in it's early years at the beginning of the 1980s had 70% British members. One of them - Pete Hawcroft - is still playing with the Bielefeld Hunters. In the Rhein-Hunsrück Liga one could find a club with only American players - the DC Hahn.
The Kastellaun Dart Club was founded because some people from Kastellaun had enjoyed playing darts during a holiday in England and brought over the complete equipment.
Some British restaurant owners inspired their guests for the sport as happened with the "Gentlemen Köln".
A story one can hear from several clubs is that one day a stranger appeared in the pub carrying a dartboard and asked whether he could not hang it up.

It is not quite sure where in those early years players got the equipment; probably Eddie Norman's agents played an important part in this. One of those might be was Bob Ryan who founded 1973 a dart shop in Neu Isenburg near Frankfurt. As Bernd Hebecker remembers that's were his club got the equipment and Ryan certainly played a role in the dart scene. The first dart shop in Munich opened in 1984 and it didn't only offer equipment, one could buy dart videos there as well.

In October 1979 the members of five German clubs first time met in Wiesbaden. It was decided to use standardized rules and to found a national organisation. A spokesperson was Chosen, Peter Hummel, and one decided to organise the first single championship in May 1980 in Wiesbaden.
One met again in February 1980, this time six towns were represented, two, Hamburg and Munich, were excused. The rules and regulations were adopted, for example the length of the Oche or that 501 SIDO was the "official" game. Another tournament was planned - a national open for four players teams at the end of October in Frankfurt.
At April 5th 1981 the DDV was officially founded, members of nine clubs were involved, some of them don't exist any longer today, Peter Hummel was chosen for first president.
The following clubs were present:
Edgar Martin, Dartsverein München e.V.
Jerry Marcuerquiaga, Dartverein Wiesbaden e.V.
Sigurd Schmitz, Dartverein Bremen e.V.
Ulli Abendroth, Deutscher Dartverein Frankfurt e.V.
Ludger Pelka, Dartclub Zocker e.V., Datteln
/ Klaus Peter Meißner, Dartclub Hameln 79 e.V.
Hans Jürgen Ruge, Oststeinbecker Darts e.V.
Günter Seidel, Jolly Dartteam Berlin-Spandau e.V.
Hans Studt, Dartclub Lübeck
and Peter Hummel as temporary chairman
The legal founding was not before one and a half years later in August 1982, the DDV then was a registered organisation and Rolf Kahrau was the new president.

The first years of the DDV were not really easy, the board changed frequently. When Bernd Hebecker was DDV president in 1984 and 1985 the BDO rules were translated and from this time on those are used. 1991 was the first time all the board members were elected again. At this time the number of members had grown from 433 in 1982 to 9473 in 1991. In 1991 the first WDF tournament was organised in Germany.
Little is know whether German players played international tournaments in those early years. It is know 1981 two players from Germany took part at the BDO World Championship but not even their names are mentioned. From 1979 to 1981 there were international German Championships, male and female players played together. 1981 the runner-up was Colin Rice - not much more is known.
It looks women from the beginning involved, some as players, some in administration, sometimes as landladies.
1982 - 1985 both international and German Championships took place - probably most of the time the foreigners dominated the tournaments. The first German Champion was Wolfgang Damm in 1982.
1984 the first German Championship exclusive for women took place - the first champion was Bianca Schmidt.
1986 the Two Person Man was added, Two Person Women was added in 1993. The first youth championship for male youths was played in 1987, for female youths in 1996.

Before 1990 good results of German players at BDO or WDF tournaments were rare. In 1986 Bernd Hebecker , president of the DDV in 1984 and 1985, did win the BDO German Open( beside Kai Pfeiffer in 1990 he still is the only German who ever managed this). And one can find in the quarter-finals ot the Dutch Open 1984 the German Steve Benge, though might be he was an American.

In the 1990s it started to change. The first WDF ranking tournament in Germany in 1991 was won by Germans Kosta Lavsas and Heike Ernst, who still today is one of the dominating ladies. In the same year the German youth team could win the European Championship and the men the Four Nations Cup. A WDF Ranking tournament in Berlin 1992 was won by Andy Kröckel and Andree Welge was the runner-up.

1993 Bernd Hebecker took part in the BDO World Championship.

During this years developed further, the number of members grew. 1995 the was a big financial crisis and it took some time to overcome it. In 1997 the DDV started into internet. 2001 was a difficult time for the regional organisations and it was rather difficult to find organizers for the ranking tournaments. 2002 one decided to introduce a national league. By now WDF tournaments in Germany are matter of course though German winners still are rare, only Heike Ernst managed several times.

In 2003 Tomas Seyler is the first German player to get a wild card for the World Darts Trophy - a major BDO tournament. In the same year the German national team takes part in the WDF World Cup France and once again it is Heike Ernst who comes off best - she reaches the semi-finals of the ladies single tournament. In those years with the men it is Tomas Seyler who is most successful - in 2005 he even wins the WDF German Gold Cup.

At the turn of the year 2004/2005 darts can be seen for the first time in German television - the DSF bought the transmission rights for the PDC World Championship. As a result the DDV scored a lot of new members and there were a great deal of new founded clubs.

During the PDC World Championship 2006 for the first time to German players stood at the Oche: Tomas Seyler and Andree Welge together rather successful as a double both had got a DSF wildcard.
2006 was a very successful year for Michael Rosenauer started his career as a soft-dart player - he could qualify for the Winmau World masters - then did win the Malta Open and was through this qualified for the World Masters 2007 as well.
Tomas Seyler get's a wildcard again for the PDC World Championship 2007. In June 2007 the German girls win all the titles at the Europe Cup in Folkestone. And the DDV for the first time has a live-ticker for tournaments and league.

After a comparatively quiet time for the DDV in 2010 the board got in difficulties again - till today not all positions are occupied. But despite all the difficulties the old board in the end had achieved a target - after long efforts the DDV was admitted into the DOSB and darts is now a recognised sport in Germany.

The most important event for Dart in Germany in the last few years was the founding of the GDC - the German Darts Cooperation - a German branch of the PDC. The GDC organised a series of ranking tournaments for German, Austrian and Swiss players through which those could qualify for the PDC World Championship. And in close cooperation with the PDC it started to organise Pro Tour events in Germany - the first took place in Bad Soden near Frankfurt.
Already in the first year the GDC organised the first ever PDC Major Tournament in Germany - the German Darts Championship - which took place end of November in Halle and was in parts televised by the DSF. This tournament doesn't exist any longer but the European Championship still is played in Germany and is a big success.

The GDC started an own Premier League for teams with players from Germany and Austria which offered quite a high price money but it's not played any longer as are the Ranking tournaments.
Instead in 2009 the PDC introduced the European Order of Merit to help players from the continent to qualify for the European Championship and the PDC World Championship. Counting for this ranking are all tournaments organised by the now PDC Europe called organisation. Beside the PDC Europe now organises qualifiers for the PDC World Championship in several European countries.

For the continental top players the situation is not really easy - they have to decide whether to play WDF/BDO tournaments or the PDC Europe events.
For example in 2007 Michael Rosenauer was the first German player who ever managed to qualify for the BDO World Championship by winning the qualifier. He caused a lot of discussions when he later decided to accept a wildcard for the PDC World Championship. He then was not allowed to take part in WDF tournaments any longer and was excluded from the German national team.
This regulation still exists - players who take part in the PDC World Championship are still allowed to play Bundesliga or national tournaments but are not allowed to WDF tournaments and are excluded from the national team. That's the same in all countries which are member of the WDF.

One can't say at the moment how the sport of darts will develop in Germany. Certainly a problem is that both organisations rarely work together. So the DDV now has the mostly thankless task to work for grass root darts while the PDC Europe attracts the German top players and organises well to market tournaments with the best players of the world. The situation is quite similar to the situation in the UK where the BDO and the PDC rival each other. Nor there nor here till at the moment a solution is in sight.

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