Photographs courtesy of John Burgess
Today marks the passing of the most influential man in the game of darts, Mr Olly Croft OBE, who died at home peacefully with his family at his side. I knew him personally for the last 11 years, staying as a guest in his home in Muswell Hill, London, whilst researching the history of the BDO. He had a profound influence on many of the top stars in our sport.
In 1972 he sat back and thought maybe we can make a national League, phoned friends from another 9 counties, held a meeting in his home and that day the BDO and the BICC was founded. In the initial season there were 10 teams and in season 2 another 10 teams joined. Within a couple of years there were 66 Counties competing and still are, to this day. His visionary approach saw him set up sponsorships with major companies for the events that he devised, such as Winmau, Embassy, Dry Blackthorn, etc. These events went on to make certain players into household names. Billy Lennard, Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Jocky Wilson to name but a few.
In 1993, however, the top 16 players in the BDO asked Olly to form a professional and competitive set of competitions with TV coverage and prize money to suit. Olly declined this and said the BDO is for the general players in the country and not the privileged few. And so 16 top ranked players formed their own organisation. He made a decision that day and on many occasions since has said he did not regret the decision and takes it to the grave with him. Whether you agree with him or not, his foresight and ability to encourage major companies and TV to sponsor events was second to none, due to the esteem and respect the players, officials and public held him in.
Personally, I will miss him dearly. He has had an impact on me as he always had time for anyone in the game and if he couldn’t help you, he would find someone that could.
Only 2 years ago we at Lancashire invited him as our VIP Guest at the Lancashire v Yorkshire match. Tommy Thompson that day gave what I regard as the best speech he ever made and the audience all gave Olly and Les France a 4-5 minute standing ovation.
In finishing, I have found this letter difficult to put together as so much could be accredited to the man who made darts what it is today, but i will say I am so privileged and lucky to have known you, Olly.
God Bless Olly
President of Lancashire Darts