Swanage’s king of darts makes his debut for England

A man from Swanage has become only the third person from Dorset to play darts for England and is now hoping to take his game a step further.

Ricky King, a welder who works at Wytch Farm, is hoping to exchange a blowtorch for a set of arrows and become a darts professional following a promising national debut in the Tri Nations tournament at Glenrothes in Scotland.


Royal British Legion club steward David ‘Elmo’ Elm (left) unveiled a new darts board at the club in honour of Ricky (right)

New board dedicated to star player

In two matches played over the best of seven legs on Sunday 14th April 2024, Ricky narrowly lost to Welsh player Terry Nash by four legs to two, but beat Scot Davie Kirwan, by a score of 4-2 helping England to be crowned champions.

In honour of Ricky’s achievements, the Royal British Legion Club in Swanage has just unveiled a new darts board, the Ricky King Board, for Swanage Superleague matches.

Club Steward David Elm said it had been dedicated to their star player in recognition of his achievements in darts, culminating in playing his first match for England.

Ricky is now waiting to see whether he will get the call-up for England’s international match in Slovakia at the end of June 2024 which involves a smaller team of just five players as opposed to the 12 who played in the Tri Nations championship.


Ricky (left) prepares to begin his second match, against Scottish star Davie Kirwan (right)

“That’s just darts in a nutshell”

Ricky King said:

“The England squad is picked through the scoring averages for your county, it’s a good tell of how you play overall, and Dorset is playing in the premier division this season for the first time ever.

“My England debut was a bit nervy, I lost the first match against Wales, but won against Scotland, so it was OK. I do think that I played better in the game that I lost, but that’s just darts in a nutshell. In the second game I just timed my finish right and stole the leg.

“You don’t get a cap for playing for England any longer, just the shirt, and I had to make my own way up to Scotland, though we got the hotel and food paid for.

“England used to fund its players, but like all things they seem to be struggling with funding, so have withdrawn some of it.

“I would love to make the squad for the international in Slovakia, though it does mean quite a lot travelling, especially when you have to pay for it yourself – it would be good to have a local sponsor as there is a lot of expense involved.”


The English men’s and women’s teams celebrate after winning the Tri Nations championship

“I would like to play darts for a living”

Ricky added:

“I like to think that I could make a living from playing darts, but I don’t know. Next January I will try to get on the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) championship and spend a year chasing the challenge tour, then see where I am after that.

“There are 128 tour card holders and I would say they could all make a living out of darts, even at the bottom end of the scale – maybe not a luxury living, but a living.

“I remember when the South African professional Devon Petersen came here eight years ago, ranked 30 odd at the time, and said if you were in the top 64 you could make £50,000 a year easily.

“I would like to give up manual work and play darts for a living, but on the flip side and what people don’t understand is that it involves a lot of travelling, a lot of spending time away and a lot of time on your own, you need an understanding partner.”


Ricky with his proud dad Tatty King after helping England to victory

County matches mostly played up north

Ricky started playing league darts about 13 years ago, joining his brother Ashley’s team at the Swanage Con Club before displaying a talent for it and moving to a team at the Legion.

He is now in his third year playing for the Dorset county team – which also includes the England captain, Scott Mitchell – having won his place through his scoring averages in the Swanage Superleague.

But with darts retaining its reputation as a northern sport, matches are often played as far away as Middlesborough, a nine-hour drive.

Swanage Royal British Legion is home to Swanage Superleague darts, but fewer and fewer pubs now host matches

“The Luke Littler effect has helped”

Ricky King said:

“Darts is still very much a northern sport, if you go up there all their pubs will accommodate darts, while down here there are nowhere near as many, and leagues are getting smaller and smaller.

“The Luke Littler effect has helped a little bit, people who would never dream of picking up a dart or buying a dart board are suddenly doing that.

“Luke is only 17, but he has played for England, won a lot of the youth tournaments and has been making waves, although I don’t think anyone expected him to go to the world championships and nearly win it.

“He is probably the best darts player in the world right now, form doesn’t lie, he’s breaking records left right and centre and I don’t think he feels any nerves.”


Taking his first throw for England, Ricky kept his nerves under control

“Pressure is for tyres”

Ricky added:

“I’ve always been a bit of a natural at darts, but it’s only when you start playing competitions against good players and testing yourself that you find out your real level.

“You have to put your nerves aside to some extent, but pressure is for tyres as they say.

“It’s all about hitting a score at the right time, doubles at the right time, because the standard is pretty similar throughout, it’s just who can do it a little bit more often than the other player.

“A good game is 15 darts, that’s just five throws and if you have one good throw or one bad throw that can be a turning point in a game.”


Hoping for a good season ahead – Swanage Cricket Club’s 2023 1st XI

Swanage Cricket Club charity match

Ricky, who also plays cricket for Swanage Cricket Club and was first team captain for several years, will be in action on Bank Holiday Monday, 27th May 2024, at a charity match which will feature Swanage RBL and The East Bar.

David Elm said:

“We at Swanage RBL and The East Bar are raising money for the Swanage Cricket Club youth and ladies’ sections and hope to make this an annual date in the diary if it’s supported well.

“The bar opens at Swanage Cricket Club at 12 noon on Monday 27th May, play starts at 1 pm and we will also have a barbecue and a raffle.

“We are all really proud of Ricky here, he is one of the most modest guys going but what he is doing around here is unbelievable, unheard of.

“There are only three people from Dorset who have ever played for England, which is a huge achievement. I have seen him beat England internationals on their own boards and until you see that you don’t realise how good he is.”

Watch Ricky in action at the Tri Nations

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