Home Internationals Hits Bullseye

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It is fifty years this year that the first-ever darts Home International took place in 1973.

In the early 1960s, darts businessman Eddie Norman had a dream. In 1962 he and his brother Peter, founders of the House of Darts International based in Bristol, founded what was to become the West of England Darts Organisation. 

At that time Eddie’s thoughts of the National Inter-City or National County Darts League leading on to International Darts Championships between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland were always on his mind. So, he decided that he would organise the First Home International Darts Championship “or die in the attempt.”

In order to pursue his dream Eddie met with the only national darts association extant at that time. Throughout the 1960s he had numerous meetings with Johnny Ross of the National Darts Association of Great Britain (NDAGB) to discuss the possibility of organising a home international through his Association.

John was very keen on the ideas but it was always the same problem – Finance.  (John Ross shown right, ‘at the mic’ – Image © PC Archive)

Money was the primary sticking point but the idea – the dream – was never shelved and Eddie’s resolve never faltered. Then, in mid-1971, Eddie put a plan to Bristol-based Berni Inns. He told them that he would like to organise a Home International Darts Championship in Bristol between England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales and then asked if they would sponsor the event.

The international would be scheduled to coincide with the celebration in 1973 of the 600th anniversary of Bristol’s County status.

A month later Berni Inns agreed to Eddie’s suggested five-year deal but with a firm proviso that he stayed in charge of the organisation of the event for that term. They also agreed that the inaugural event would be held in Bristol but that the second would be held in London at The Lyceum (which was owned by the group).

With his dream on the edge of fulfilment, Eddie started planning the first home international in earnest in mid-1972. The event would be in a giant circus-style marquee on Bristol Durdham Downs and Berni Inns covered every aspect of the sponsorship. Eddie asked His Grace the Duke of Beaufort, whose country seat was twelve miles away at Badminton House, and the Duke accepted. 

For the teams, Eddie contacted Ossie Turner, Secretary of the Welsh NDAGB, Louis Donohue in Ireland then Scotland’s Frank Quinn, President of the Scottish Darts Association (SDA) and then Olly Croft to select and manage an England team. They all agreed.

Soon, everything was in place for the great day – Sunday 29th July 1973. The teams and managers all arrived at the hotel for the pre-match dinner. Eddie described the tournament as ‘a glorious day.’ The 1,000 tickets allocated for the event were completely sold out and organisers had to turn people away on the day. 

Each country’s team consisted of seven players and each player played one game of 801 against an opponent from another country, drawn out of the hat beforehand. All games were played from a 7’ 6” throw line.

The first winners of the inaugural Home International were England (sponsored by the Trulon darts manufacturer) and team captain Tommy O’Regan gratefully accepted the trophy from the Duke of Beaufort.

Man-of-the-match was England’s Cliff Inglis, receiving a special prize for being the most consistent player. Out of a possible total of 21 points England scored 17, one point for each of the seventeen individual games won. Wales came second with 11 points, Scotland third with eight points and Ireland in fourth and final place with six points.

Darts World reported that England played strongly throughout and deserved their victory. Olly Croft, manager of the England team said

“Today will be the most memorable occasion for the England team and myself on winning the first-ever home international” adding “For me the greatest thing is at last knowing that I made the right choice in picking the best team and the best captain, Tommy O’Regan.” 

Darts World pronounced the tournament as ‘an outstanding success’ and confidently predicted that the Home Internationals would become ‘a major event on the darts calendar’ which, of course, they did. 

Eddie’s dream of organising the first-ever full home international was realised in July 1973. However, fate (or rather the BDO) had decreed that thereafter it was out of his hands. Eddie accepted the situation and moved on. 

Patrick Chaplin

(The full story of the first Home International can be read in issue #160 of Darts History at winmau.com.)

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