Members of Eccles Darts League

“It’s the best night out of the week for me, it’s the only night out of the week for me.”

Across the country, pubs struggle to get people through the door at the start of the week, with Monday night the least lucrative.

But thanks to the Eccles and District Log End Darts League, St Michael’s Social Club on Liverpool Road is far from empty.

Tonight the club’s resident team Peel Green will play Dutton, who represent the Dutton Arms, looking to close the gap to Patricroft at the top of the nine-team league.

Through the entrance to the side of the bar a trophy cabinet is filled with accolades won decades ago, the darts league has helped keep pubs and social clubs like this full for over half a century.

I sat down with Jeff Mosey, who is one of the league’s committee members and a player for Peel Green. Along with other members Chris Hayes and Paul Clay, Jeff coordinates a season which runs consistently all year round.

The Eccles and District league has been a part of Jeff’s life for over 45 years.

“I started playing at 16, I’m 60 this year and the league has been going on a lot longer than that. Back when I started we had two divisions of 16 teams.”

Last year, it was estimated 383 pubs in England and Wales closed down in the face of soaring energy bills and rising costs. These closures have had a knock-on effect on the number of teams and the ability to get sponsors for the league.

“All the pubs are closing, we self-fund other than a couple of small sponsors that put some money towards the end-of-season presentation.”

“The presentation last season was great,” Dutton’s Chris Hayes tells me as he orders from the bar. “Last year we had a comedian down who was absolutely brilliant.”

This year’s presentation will take place on August 30 after the league concludes on July 15.

Chris added: “We are always looking for new sponsors for the league and it would be great to get more teams in.”

Members of Eccles Darts League

They are are hoping that the recent increase in popularity driven by the success of the North West’s Luke Littler might spark a rise in the number of teams joining.

As more of the Dutton players arrive at St Michael’s, I move towards the board which is initially unfamiliar. It’s a log end board, unique to the region, produced in Manchester.

Many people drawn into the sport in the wake of the recent boom may only be familiar with 501 darts but log end darts is played on a smaller black board with no visible trebles.

Unlike the 501 variation, points are accumulated by scoring around the board, once the player has successfully hit each segment they must hit a double before finishing on the bullseye.

“It’s a great leveller,” Jeff tells me. “ You can be miles behind, getting battered and then come back and win if the opponent can’t take out the double.”

The nature of the format allows for more of a level playing field, there was a feeling that the better players could be turned over on any given day.

This unpredictability adds to the entertainment. “Everybody has a great time, it’s a very friendly league it’s really enjoyable,” said Jeff.

The unique ‘Log End’ board.

As the draw for the night’s fixtures concludes the stand-in scorer calls the beginning of the match and the players shake hands. The success of every visit is marked with a shout of “Great Darts” or “Unlucky” from the teams who manage to maintain silence throughout the player’s visit.

As each player steps up to the oche it becomes apparent that some have been allocated nicknames, the pick of the bunch is self-proclaimed. The marksmanship of Dutton’s Simon Kelley dubbed “The Sniper” was up to standard as he won the nights fifth match.

Despite the light-hearted atmosphere, the games remain competitive with the scores tied at 3–3 and one player from each of the seven-strong teams left to throw, the anticipation and pressure builds as the throwers progress around the board.

‘Taking Aim’ Eccles and Darts league players throw at a ‘Log End’ board.

Peel Green took the last leg to win 4–3 on the night, they continue to fight at the top end of the league.

After the conclusion of the match, a tray of cottage pie is wheeled out from behind the bar to accompany a well-deserved post-match drink.

With both teams reflecting on a close game I spoke to Dutton’s Victoria Tornai who plays for the team alongside her son Ryan Barton.

“Me and him (Ryan) play every Monday for Dutton.”

As well as playing for the Dutton Arms, Victoria plays on a Tuesday night in the local women’s league.

“There are at least eight teams in the women’s league she notes, it played on 301 scoring, I’ve been playing on the women’s team The Dog and Partridge for three years.

“The women’s league is a lot more competitive,” she jokes. “It’s just great to get down and play and it helps the pub out when most pubs are usually empty.”

The Eccles and District Darts League provides a lifeline for clubs fighting to survive. As similar locations across the country continue to go under, events taking place throughout the quieter parts of the week are important to keep the cash coming in.

If you’ve been watching the world championships and have felt inspired to dust off the old set of darts you bought years ago, or maybe you are new to the sport but feel like you can emulate what you’ve seen on the TV, perhaps it’s time to get involved with a local league and help support pubs across the region.

The annual general meeting for the Eccles and District Log End Darts League will take place on Monday September 2, when new teams and players can register to play in the competition.


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