Interview with Huw Ware

Huw Ware caught the darts bug when he was 11 and watched during his summer holidays 2005 the match between Phil Taylor and Dennis Priestley during the World Matchplay. He started to play darts in the local league and started as well to referee if worst came to worst. 2011 he two times was nominated for the Welsh national team - highlight and as well farewell of his darting career.
In the same year he was invited as referee to the Winmau World Masters - with years of age - and became the youngest ever dart referee and beside one of the youngest Grade 1 referees in sporting history. The BDO was highly pleased with the young man and invited him to referee during the Lakeside World Championship 2012 as well. Till Lakeside 2016 he was member of the BDO team of referees.
Besides he started to study when he had finished school. His goal was to become a sport moderator or commentator, he worked from time to time as spotter for the BBC and in 2013 he won the Best Presenter Award of the Cardiff Student Media. Two years later the next award followed: fourth best male presenter at the National Student TV Awards. By no Huw has finished his studies and works freelance for the BBC. As there were a lot of date overlaps with his work as referee for the BDO he ended this job, but we might see him from time to time on the PDC stage should it be possible.

You started you career in darts as an active player. How old where you when you started to play?

I was 12 when I started throwing at first. I'd watched it on television for about 4 or 5 months and then after that I figured I'd like to become World Champion - and I'm still waiting!!

Are you from a darting family?

Not really no. My mum used to watch it back in the 1980s when everybody was watching it, but I don't think she felt a huge affinity for it. I certainly got the bug for it myself, I was never brought up around darts or encouraged to go down that route, if anything I was into sports like football and I used to play a bit of cricket and some squash, but when I found darts it was like a whole new world opening up.

You were a quite successful youth player - what was your biggest achievement?

My two caps for Wales Youth have to be my highlight. To play for my country was the ultimate for me, and it was nice that it came just as my competitive playing career came to an end, so for it to culminate like that was really nice.

Did you have any role models?

I have players who I admire particularly for all sorts of different reasons, and I suppose the one thing they have in common is that they've all been World Champion at some point, so they've achieved the ultimate you can be in darts. Having said that there are plenty of other players I admire for the immense ability that they have, and since I've become involved and got to know a lot of the players on both circuits, I admire them as people and they're my friends. I'm lucky to have become involved at a time when all my role models are still very much at the top of their game and are still big figures in darts.

Do you still play?

No. When I moved out of my parent's house three years ago for university, I didn't take my dartboard with me..Let's just say how I spent my evenings changed when I went to uni!!

Did you ever have the dream to become a pro player?

Yes, initially I did. The problem I had was that I didn't have any natural ability. I battled my way to becoming a decent player, who I think on his day was pretty good at taking his chances if you gave him the chance, but ultimately wouldn't have made it.

When you see the development in Youth darts with the PDC development tour or all the academies which developed over the last few years do you begrudge the young players those opportunities?

Oh absolutely not! No these are precisely what the young players need, and when you see the standard of the young players, their talents have to be showcased and they have to be provided these avenues into the professional game. The game would die without new players and new blood coming through, and as we've seen over the past few years, they're more than good enough to compete. It makes the game that much more exciting. There's nothing better in sport when new faces and new characters come into their chosen field.

Did you ever toy with the idea to join the PDC developing tour? You still could do it!!!

Hahahaha, no I don't think so..I wouldn't want to show them up!! No really, I'd be lucky if I won a leg on the Development Tour, I'll mark instead, how does that sound?!

What made you change from the player playing on stage to the MC on stage?

As I sort of said above, one of the reasons I took up the refereeing on the pro circuit (knowing I would have to sacrifice the playing), was because I figured I probably never was going to have the ability to make it as a pro. I've been to places as a ref I'd never have got to as a player, of that I think I'm pretty certain. If I felt I could make it as a player I would've turned the refereeing down to give myself more of a chance, but realistically that was never going to happen.

You still are the youngest official caller - how did it happen you started to call matches?

I had always enjoyed marking, and when I was playing for Glamorgan Youth we had a friendly against the Senior county squad, and the caller didn't turn up. So I said I'd step in and I ended up staying on there most of the day. When I finished, some of the county side came up to me and said they were in need of a new caller, and would I like to do it. And that's where a lot of it started.

Was your youth ever a problem? Maybe players who didn't take you seriously?

No I don't think it was a problem for the players. No-one ever came up to me or approached the BDO that they had a problem with it, so I can only assume there wasn't. I like to think they didn't have a problem because I was doing a good job. If I wasn't then there would be problems and rightly so, but fortunately for me there wasn't any issues.

You soon made it to the lakeside stage - was that very difficult for you? Did you feel nervous???

My first Lakeside was difficult yes. I made a mistake in my very first game at a crucial time in the match so I had some stick for that on social media and things. I was trolled on Twitter a few times that week which was tough to deal with, but I suppose that's part of it and the best thing I could do was ignore it, which I did and gradually it went away. I was very nervous my first game of course and the mistake was just one of those things that happened, but at the same time I enjoyed it and I loved every minute.

What was the first match you called as official BDO caller?

It was at the World Masters 2011, and it was the Youth Girls final between Alannah Waters (an old teammate of mine at Glamorgan Youth) and Scotland's Emily Davidson. My first 'Senior' match was Ewan Hyslop against Robert Wagner, at the same tournament.

To me you BDO callers looked like quite a good and close team...

We were, and still are. We message each other regularly and when I was watching the World Trophy recently on Dave, that was a curious moment watching all my mates and I wasn't there. The hardest thing was leaving them and I miss them a lot.

Is there a difference for you whether you call a ladies or a men's match?

No not really. I find both as enjoyable, especially when you see the depth in standard in the Ladies right now. When you've got players like Lisa Ashton firing in 98 averages which she did recently, and Trina Gulliver back to her best with winning the world title, and Deta Hedman who is just a marvelous player and serial winner. Darts is darts and I enjoy calling it.

What was for you the best match you ever called?

It has to be the 2014 World Championship quarter-final between James Wilson and Alan Norris. It was 5-2 to Norris but the standard was just incredible from start to finish. I think Alan's end average was touching a hundred and James's was 99, and 23 180s. Just an amazing match.

Did you ever call a nine-darter and is it something special for a caller?

Nope, I've never called a nine-darter, in fact it was a stand-in joke with me and the BDO referees that I hadn't even had six perfect darts for a long while, so I didn't even get to call the 'you require 141'. Then that changed in 2015 because Jeff Smith went 171/180 so I have now had six perfect darts. Although that still technically means I haven't called 'you require 141'...

Did you ever call a match which looked like it could end in a hassle or would you say the players are all peaceful?

I have had matches where there's been a lot of needle taking place yes. On the whole though, the vast majority of matches end very peacefully, but you always get a few where something happens.

Have you got a favourite player? And are some players difficult on stage?

I don't so much have one favourite player, particularly now I'm involved and I've got to know a lot of the players on a personal level. I wouldn't say some players are difficult...just some are different to others!! But no really, on the whole it's all good.

Is a caller very dependent on the scoreboards or scoreboard or does he usually know all the scores by heart?

Well normally you know what the person's got left, but when you're concentrating on two scores it is easy to forget the other one. Especially in the middle of a leg and someone's on 253 and hits 135 or something like that (that's 118 right?......right?!.....) and then yes you do look at the scoreboard. The best times for just knowing what's left would be right at the top of a leg and when someone's on a finish. If someone throws in a treble 13 which you've no idea what that's scored but you know it's left tops, you can work it out from there.

Who decides which match a caller will call?

When I was in the BDO Richard Ashdown, the MC and Head Ref would decide. In the PDC now it's Graham Fairhurst the Tournament Director.

You recently worked as a caller during the PDC UK Open - did you feel there was a difference for you?

Yes there was a difference in vibe and atmosphere and feel to the event, but when I got up there it was just like refereeing another darts match, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more as time went on but I suppose that was because I became more relaxed, because when I first got up there I was terrified!!

You were assigned to board two for on the first day - was that not very exhausting?

I was on board two for the afternoon, then out on the exterior boards in the evening for the first day, but the afternoon was very long. I had been told to expect it to be a long afternoon beforehand so I was prepared for it. Then when it finished and I came back we had a couple of hours off so I went back to our flat so I was refreshed for the evening.

As you now called in the PDC - are you no longer allowed to call for the BDO or would that be no problem at all?

No I won't be calling in the BDO any more now. That's not because of anything negative, I still love the BDO and I have their blessing, it's just a case of one or the other. It wouldn't be right for me to flit back and for.

On the PDC stage there are still two chalkers working together with the caller - what do you like better being the only responsible official on stage or to work as a team?

To be honest I do prefer the markers, because it is nice to have two people present with you, so you don't feel like all the onus is on you. Also, if a mistake is made, with a marker it can be very quickly rectified, whereas with computers it can take longer and can cause more of a delay to the match. Both have their merits though of course.

Would you say chalkers and caller are a team? Or is the caller the boss?

In terms of what the chalkers write down, they have to follow the referee's lead, but we are a team off the oche, and if a mistake is made on stage then we can work it out between us.

When I watch the PDC tournaments I observed together with a caller often the same chalkers are on stage - can the caller chose his chalkers?

No not at all. The markers are assigned to matches just like the caller. We don't have any say over who we get to mark with.

Ever thought about why there are no official female callers or do there exist some you know off?

There are some female callers, it's not for any particular reason there's none that referee on the professional circuit, but I hope there will be in the future. If they're good enough, that's what's most important. Funnily enough Sue Williams, who's the head of the BDO, used to referee. I know a lovely lady up in Scotland called Elaine Kearns who does it too, so there's some out there!

Was there anything handled differently by the PDC callers - any other rules?

One of the big changes that immediately springs to mind is the throw for the bull. In the BDO if the dart lands outside the 25 you leave it there, and the dart 'stands', but in the PDC only darts in the 25 or bull count.

Are you very good in maths or do you sometimes miscount?

I'm not very good at maths..but my mental arithmetic is great!! I effectively learnt to count on the dartboard, and I really believe a form of darts should exist in schools. It's the perfect learning tool; the kids can have fun at the same time! But yes, sometimes I do miscount. I remember once at the BDO Youth Festival of Darts I got it completely wrong and I wasn't even close. I think I called 79 and it was 88 or something. I just got it completely wrong! So yeah, it does happen sometimes but I suppose the most important thing is to correct it.

Have you got a favourite tournament?

I used to go and watch the World Matchplay from 2008-2011 as a fan, and I've still gone back there a few times since, so that tournament does have a special place in my heart. Apart from that I don't think I look at any tournament and highlight one from the other. A lot of them are so different and vary in terms of formats and qualification criteria I enjoy all of them with their own traits and unique aspects.

And who is your favourite caller????

Hahahahaha..ooooh I could have some fun with this... Me!!! No not really, I'm terrible. I know if I answer this question a SWAT team of angry darts referees will descend on me and shoot me dead so I will refuse to answer!!

Did you travel as official BDO caller to the World Cup or European Cup or were callers from the host countries used?

No I never did the WDF events because they're headed up by Richard Ashdown and Jacques Niewlaat. Nick Rolls also officiated at the last World Cup too.

By now you've changed from caller to journalist. What is your goal? Would you like to be commentator or more a presenter?

To be honest I don't want to pigeon-hole myself into saying one or the other at this early stage. To be able to be in front of the camera with a microphone in my hand, in whatever capacity my bosses would want me to be in, yeah, that's my goal.

And do you see your future more on TV, radio or in newspapers?

Certainly in TV and radio I think more than the newspapers.

What do you do at the moment?

I'm a researcher for BBC Radio Wales Sport. Back in June 2015 I got through the BBC's Kick Off Scheme, so I worked in the department for two months, and now at the start of this year, my workload has increased dramatically which is why I've taken a step back from the darts. Of course, the live sport is played on weekends the same as darts, so I decided I wanted to give the media a real go while I still can, now I'm out of university and out of education. Of course I still keep my hand in with the darts, and I hope to be involved in some capacity for many years to come, but we will see where life goes.

In which sports are you involved now?

Mostly I cover football, I've worked regularly on our Radio Wales Sport programe on a Saturday now for many months, covering Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham. On the weekdays we tend to cover any sport that has a Welsh connection. So if there's a Welsh Judo player, or swimming champion, or whatever field their sport is in (darts!), then we tend to cover them.

Do you yourself do any sports beside darts?

Not any more. Like I said above I used to play a lot of cricket and squash, but I had to give those up as I committed myself more to darts.

Is for you darts a real sport at all???

Yes absolutely. I believe darts requires the same amount of skill, psychology, temperament and dedication as a lot of other sports do. Bobby George says "Darts is a very easy game to play, but a very difficult game to play well" and I couldn't agree more. Anybody can throw a dart, the same as anyone can kick a football, but the discipline required to self-improve in the technical aspects of a dart player (the throw, the grip, the release etc.) is no different to somebody practicing corners or trying to dribble past three men instead of two, in my opinion.
People point to the lack of supposed physicality you need in darts, but back in 2005, both Martin Adams and Mervyn King wore pedometers during the Lakeside. I've looked it up and Adams registered 33,310 steps up and down the oche during the whole tournament, in practice and match play. So I think that shows it can be very physically demanding too. It saps your stamina more than anything and when you're having to focus, concentrate and be mentally strong at the same time.....yeah, that's tough.

You studied journalism - what exactly do you learn?

Well I studied English Language at university, I did Journalism as an additional subject in my first year, so in English Language there were two parts. One was to do with the actual structure of the English language, and the other was how we use language to communicate with each other. I enjoyed the latter the most.

You work now with the BBC??? Is that some kind of dream job for you? Is it difficult to get a job with the BBC?

If I have the opportunity to become a broadcaster for the BBC, then yes that would be an amazing opportunity. I would be very very lucky because it's such a competitive industry, and it wouldn't happen overnight of course. I am a freelancer at the moment so I'm not contracted to the BBC, but my main work at the moment is with them.

There is not much darts left on the BBC. does the BBC report from county darts on regional programs?

It doesn't so much on County darts but when someone achieves something then yes, the BBC's local stations do get in touch with them at times. I remember we did an hour's feature on darts before the PDC World Championship 2016 got underway, to celebrate the 'darts season' kicking off with both the PDC and BDO versions. We had Mark Webster and Martin Adams on the phone, with me in the studio which was a lot of fun.

Have you got a role model for commentating or a favourite commentator?

I couldn't say I have one particularly, I like to study a wide variety of different commentators as different people have different styles, and I like to learn off as many as I can. I'm fortunate enough to work with some of Wales' top sports broadcasters right now, which is an immense learning experience.

As you have by now insider knowledge both of the BDO and of the TV/radio world - have you got an explanation why it is so difficult for the BDO to find a possibility to get their tournaments on TV?

It's difficult for me to say and particularly when I've been involved on the TV production side of things for the last couple of years at Lakeside (as a spotter). I think the BDO have been unfortunate that the BBC have had to let the Lakeside go, not so much because of darts reasons but for their own reasons, and since then with Deluxe coming in, they made a right mess of it and the BDO for a while really had to toil to get some credibility back.
But they've done that now, I thought the World Trophy on Dave was a huge success, and I hope now that Dave, and indeed other interested broadcasters, could look at that and say that there is still a place for BDO darts on television. The players deserve it more than anyone, there are still fine players in the BDO, and players coming through who WILL be the stars of tomorrow. The organization is still as strong as ever in that respect, and I hope the Lakeside will be televised by a major broadcaster this year, and new TV tournaments will follow.

Might be you have an idea as well why ladies darts has such a problem to be accepted?

Well I think it's always been accepted, as the Ladies World Championship has been televised every year since 2002 without fail, but in terms of the wider audience, yes I know what you mean. The standard has, statistically anyway, not been as good as the men's, and maybe that means to the casual sports and darts viewer, it's not been as appealing, but over the last few years all that has changed. The 2014 Ladies final got over 2 million viewers I think for a late Saturday afternoon slot on BBC Two.

The standard has risen and risen, the Ladies Darts Organisation has done a really good job of putting on tournaments and creating a 'team ethos' to the Ladies game, and we've now gotten to the stage where a lady is posting the highest average in the entire tournament, like what Lisa Ashton did at the World Trophy. If the Ladies continue in that fashion, which I believe they will, they won't just be accepted they'll be celebrated!

How would a darts program on TV look would you be able to produce one?

Oooh what a question to end on, you're basically asking me to pitch my dream show here!! If I'm honest, I'm very much a fan of bringing back 'Bullseye'. If we were to strive for the ultimate darts programme in this country, I think we've already had it, and it's not going to be beaten. 15 million people would tune in every Sunday for it, so when any 'new' darts game show comes out these days, that's the yardstick it's immediately compared to and it's very difficult to emulate that.

Having said that, there are certain aspects of 'Bullseye' which I don't think would truly work in today's television, and that would have to change, but if we got the balance right between being at the forefront of modern television, without losing the addictive charm of the old programme, I don't see why the 'Bullseye' format can't work in Britain today. In some ways, looking back, the old 'Bullseye' did encapsulate a lot of British humour, and we certainly look back on it now with British humour, and when shows like The Great British Bake Off are doing so well because it has that feel-good British factor to it, it shows that there is still a market for that kind of show.

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