The darting world as a whole was plunged into sadness in April when Bob Potter passed away at the age of 94. We take a look back at one of the most important background figures in the emergence of darts as a major sport and helped propel the sport into the public eye. 

Since Bob’s death on 14th April, tributes have flooded in from across the darting world, including from Bobby George, referee Huw Ware and former Lakeside World Champion Stephen Bunting, amongst many others. 

Potter hosted the BDO World Championship between 1986 and 2019 at his iconic Lakeside Country Club, and once again hosted the WDF World Championship in 2022, where it was recently announced that this would continue for at least the next three editions of the tournament, continuing with the upcoming event this December. This return to the Frimley Green based venue, was greeted with delight by many darts fans, with many proclaiming it to be the most iconic darts venue. 

Bob Potter started his career by booking bands into venues in the South East of England before progressing to eventually booking some of the all time great bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, before he crafted The Lakeside site. 

Potter established The Lakeside club in 1972, initially known as Wharfenden House when Potter acquired the hall, eponymous lake and surrounding areas. The hall was quickly extended due to its popularity and today can host over 1300 spectators, and would quickly grow to be a hub of entertainment for the South of England, under the banner of the successful Potter Leisure Ltd.

While it has hosted many of the top names from the darting world since that time, it has also seen legendary acts such as Morcambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Tom Jones and Marvin Gaye, among dozens of others, all perform at the illustrious venue. The genial promoter also hosted many Prime Ministers and members of The Royal Family, including the now King Charles III, and  was appointed an OBE in 1993. 

In a statement announcing the news of his death, the WDF said: 

“The World Darts Federation are deeply saddened to learn that Bob Potter OBE passed away earlier today at the age of 94.

Bob was an ardent supporter of darts, with his iconic Lakeside Country Club playing host to the Darts World Championships from 1986 to 2019. Lakeside also served as the lead sponsor from 2004 to 2019 and once again in 2022, when he welcomed us back with open arms.

His unwavering loyalty to the tournament over the years survived many setbacks, including the government enforced ending of tobacco company Embassy abrupt end to sponsoring the tournament, Potter himself shouldered that responsibility for many years giving the tournament its new “Lakeside World Championship” name and he would often be seen handing the infamous trophies to players during his time sponsoring the tournament. 

Another setback came when the BBC ended its broadcasting of the tournament in 2016, instead choosing to broadcast the short lived PDC Champions League. But again Potter did not give up hope, and instead was part of securing broadcasting rights with various outlets since then. 

the WDF Concluded: “We look forward to continuing his legacy at the venue over at least the next three years.”

Numerous other accolades and awards have been bestowed upon Potter, particularly for his contribution to various charities, with one of the main beneficiaries from his positive work being the NHS. 

Also away from darts Potter was appointed as a director at local football club Aldershot in 1983, before eventually becoming chairman, a role in which he stayed for almost a decade. 

The role that Potter played in helping darts grasp the attention of nations around the world cannot be understated, with the most recent edition of the tournament in 2022 being broadcast to over 50 nations, a record for the tournament, when it returned to the club. 

It is understood that Bob’s health had been deteriorating and that he had been suffering from Vascular dementia for a time before his death, but passed peacefully with his wife Barbara at his side. 

Bob Potter will be remembered as the man who gave darts one of its most cherished and synonymous venues and secured a legacy that his family, friends and this sport should always remember and be proud of. RIP


Image: Chippix

Words: Joe Usher

An independent consultant, coach, author and analyst in the sports and business sectors. I am regularly retained to advise and coach professionals in a variety of fields.

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