Friday, 2 April 2010

Sefton Super League Darts: Fun, funds, friendship and filth

It's pretty tough to get people to do things nowadays, with so many distractions and mobile communication devices meaning everyone's bored of everything.

It's hard enough convincing people to go down the pub, or even leave the house at all. So it's pretty bloody impossible to get them to do anything involving cricket club administration.

Sefton needs to generate cash more urgently over the winter than over the summer - as there's not a steady stream of thirsty and hungry cricketers turning up to part with their cash. Over the winter things can get lean, and Sefton Park CC is not especially well-placed geographically to attract passing customers being situated, as it is, in the middle of Sefton Park.

So, current Sefton Chairman and fourth/fifth team stalwart Stuart Lomas hit upon a killer wheeze that would combine his three greatest loves: cricket, darts and Excel spreadsheets. The Sefton Super League was born in 2008, and Sefton has never looked back. Lomas, a man best described as grumpy and officious, deserves significant credit.

The first year attracted 16 players, turning up over the long winter months to throw arrows and down Trad. By the time the final came around there were dozens of spectators pouring money into the tills and bitter down their necks to see two of the four finalists whitewashed.

It was a successful start, but there was more to come. the 2009-2010 season saw two separate divisions - the Sefton Super League and Sefton Plate - and a spin-off knock-out tournament. There were also forays beyond the realms of Sefton to other pubs to take on other teams, and the women who play darts at the club got a darts hiding they aren't likely to forget.

The darts nights will have sent thousands into the club's coffers, and many enjoyable nights are the result.

A weekly newsletter, The Arrow, goes out to subscribers, detailing many and varied amiable slurs against the character of Sefton members; another weekly pre-match report, Darts AM, goes out hosted by characters as diverse as Sir Roger Moore, Trevor Jesty and the Transporter bridge; a mainly-nonsensical betting ring has sprung up surrounding the leagues; photos go on Flickr and videos of entrance music and presentations go on Youtube; a hack from a national broadsheet writes up the final.

The culmination of this effort is the finals night, which saw not one but two specially-made videos: one a brilliantly-executed Rocky spoof, and the other a video version of Darts AM, with contributions from Roger Moore, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Brum and Kendo Nagasaki involving interviews, voiceovers, animation and audio and video editing. It's probably fairly baffling and unfunny if you're not in on the jokes, but to me it symbolises the effort that people are willing to put into something they care about.

The success of the darts night gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. It shows what you can with a bit of effort, a bit of help, and a bit of support. It's an enjoyable way of keeping the wolf from the door from the club's point of view, and it allows a lot of men brought together by a mutual love of cricket to express their fondness for each other in the only way they know: through competition; through forensic discussion of obscure sport and sportsmen; and through viciously defaming and ridiculing one another.

As the club moves towards its 150th anniversary, the darts nights have shown how it is possible to engage and mobilise a membership at a time when it's hard to convince someone to leave the sofa, nevertheless trudge through the mud and wind and rain to get beaten 3-0 by the club's reigning champ.

The video below may mean little to you if you don't come down to the club on a regular basis, but to me it's proof that people are willing to freely give of their time and money to make something they believe in work.

And it's not often you can say that about a video featuring Sir Roger Moore making knob gags.

Darts AM 2010

Peter Kelly's Rocky spoof

Sefton Super League video playlist

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