In the recent British Internationals darts tournament in Fife, compère Martin Fitzmaurice tried to keep the crowd entertained during a break in play.

Uproar | Comments made by darts compère Martin Fitzmaurice have seen the veteran rightly criticised and shamed. (Image | Daily Mail)

Uproar | Comments made by darts compère Martin Fitzmaurice at the British Internationals have caused outrage and lifted the lid on the world of professional darts. (Image | Daily Mail)

The veteran has been a fixture of the British Darts Organisation (BDO) for many years, with his famous catchphrase “Let’s play darts!” the siren call to energise the crowd before a match begins.

Yet on this occasion, Fitzmaurice used the microphone to make himself more than just a voice for warming up spectators, as he proceeded to give what felt like a substandard Bernard Manning tribute act.

Below are some of the 72-year-old’s choice quotes as he addressed the crowd:

“We’re not getting racist here now, ‘cos when you got a microphone in your hand, you mustn’t be racist.”

“You mustn’t say racist gags. Do you think that’s silly? Course it’s silly.”

“You get told off by the BBC. You have to be politically correct.”

“What’s political correctness? (Pause). What’s black and eats bananas? Half of London.”

“I won’t do the Paki one. Unless they ask me to. (Pause). What’s the difference between a Paki and E.T? E.T. went home.”

The instinctive response is one of disgust. However, while such a reaction is understandable, it only serves to focus on one rotting tree, when in reality we ought to turn our attention to the entire forest.

Darts is an often-ignored sport, possibly because some refuse to recognise it as one at all. For the record, darts is just as worthy of being classified as a sport as snooker or golf.

All require a high level of concentration for prolonged periods, as well as the ability to hit a minute target with unerring accuracy and consistency.

However, a joke from comedian Paul Sinha touched on an unspoken part of its make-up. Asked which sport could do with increased racial diversity, Sinha nominated darts, saying you could “probably trace it back to a second-hand car showroom in Dagenham.”

Look around any major darts event, and non-white faces are conspicuous by their absence. Sports including rowing, equestrianism and sailing also have this issue, but that can in part be explained by the class privilege of their participants.

Many working-class communities are heavily made up of ethnic minorities that lack the disposable income to be able to afford for their children to join these aforementioned pursuits.

Darts, meanwhile, is ingrained in the working-class pub culture of Britain, and the same applies to countries such as Canada and Australia. One would expect darts to be a good fit for its ethnic minority population.

Out of touch

On show | The sport is one of the least diverse in the country, and relies on many traditional attitudes, such as the absence of women except for dancing and cheerleading purposes. (Image | Daily Mail)

As well as its complete absence of women, apart from the scantily-clad ones accompanying the players to the oche (an identical example of the way cycling uses podium girls), the lack of non-white people in the sport is an indicator of something darts, as well as British society, would rather remain quiet about.

For the typical image of a person associated with darts may be of one who is working class, but it is a very specific type of working-class individual: an overweight, white male that quite possibly works on a local fruit and veg stall.

Rather than being a sport for all working-class people, it is the last bastion of Britain before immigration, the suffragettes, gay rights and disability rights.

I have always found it curious how a sport that requires one to remain still at all times has not tried to make itself more inclusive to people with particular disabilities.

Leaving aside the absurd comment that one should not be racist only when they have a microphone in their hand, Fitzmaurice has given one of those empty, “sorry if anyone was offended” apologies and tried to excuse his comments as “banter”, often the last refuge of the bigot.

To answer Fitzmaurice’s rhetorical question on what political correctness is, comedian Stewart Lee describes it as: “An often clumsy negotiation towards a formally inclusive language.

“There’s all sorts of problems with it, but it’s better than what we had before.” Personally I think the phrase itself is a misnomer. It is not about being politically correct, it is simply being correct.

Fitzmaurice has since resigned from the BDO for his comments, but his parting shot at the media storm shows that he has learnt nothing from his invective. The sport of darts needs to ensure that it does not do the same.

Just because Fitzmaurice is no longer a presence, that does not fix the problem of darts venues being a refuge where ignorance about the diverse culture of contemporary Britain is shut out.

There is a reason why I have never felt comfortable with the prospect of going to a live darts event. Until the BDO and the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) make active strides to close the diversity gap in the sport, I will continue to give it a wide berth.

Whether darts cares about this or not remains to be seen, but Fitzmaurice’s conduct has given the sport an ideal launching pad to make progressive change.

Darts may have an open-door policy, but only if your face fits. It is about time they opened those doors for everyone.

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