Ex-pro lifts lid on darts stars' earnings and warns lifestyle "not luxurious"

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Michael Smith celebrates winning the PDC World Darts Championship and £500,000 in prize money (Image: PA)
Michael Smith celebrates winning the PDC World Darts Championship and £500,000 in prize money (Image: PA)

The glitz and glamour of the PDC World Darts Championship gives the impression that darts players are making a fortune from their talent, but one former darts star has warned the reality for many is very different.

When Michael Smith was declared best darts player in the world last night after his impressive 7-4 victory over Michael van Gerwen the British star also collected a winner's payment of £500,000. The win took Smith to the top of the PDC Order of Merit - based on prize money won over the last two years. Playing in ranking events over that period Smith has collected a cool £1.2million.

However, one former darts star has warned that life on the PDC circuit is not as lucrative as you might think. Paul Nicholson played at the highest level of darts winning the Players' Championship in 2010 and was Champions League runner-up the following year.

Writing for Sporting Life he said: "Let’s get one thing straight right away, being a dart player is not as luxurious as people think.

"Sure, there are those big pay days and great moments where you think ‘yes, this is what I want to do for the next 20 years’ but ultimately there are times where you think ‘all I do is play darts, travel, pack suitcases and practice when I get home’."

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Ex-pro lifts lid on darts stars' earnings and warns lifestyle "not luxurious"Former darts professional Paul Nicholson has spoken about the reality of prize money for darts players (Getty Images)

Smith, Peter Wright and van Gerwen have all won over £1million in PDC ranking events in the last two years in addition to their sponsorship agreements and exhibition appearance fees. However, Nicholson highlighted the hidden expenses that eat away at their winning including the tax man.

He added: "They might have ‘won’ millions during their career but it doesn’t mean they have a million sitting in their bank accounts right now!"

Nicholson highlights that the PDPA levy is 2% on prize money while management who book player's travel, accommodation and exhibition bookings also take a cut of winning and sponsorship.

"From my own experience, I gave my manager 20% of all my income from sponsorships and exhibition work," added Nicholson.

Ex-pro lifts lid on darts stars' earnings and warns lifestyle "not luxurious"Peter Wright was knocked of the top of the PDC Order of Merit last night by Michael Smith but has still won £1.1million in prize money over the last two years (PA)

The former darts star also warned about players needing to be aware of the tax they need to pay on winnings. Nicholson said after winning £60,000 for the Players' Championship in 2010 after all the fees and tax he actually walked away with £22,000.

Nicholson added that on the exhibition circuit the top players earn far more than those further down the PDC rankings.

He said: "The range of exhibition payments I’ve heard players earn in my career is anything from £250 to £20,000. For one night. But just to be clear, that latter amount is an extreme example if the promotion is significantly big and held in a large arena like one in Budapest recently which had around 7000 fans in attendance."

Ex-pro lifts lid on darts stars' earnings and warns lifestyle "not luxurious"James Wade sits 10th in the PDC Order of Merit and has won £440,000 in the last two years (Getty Images)

Further down the PDC Order of Merit James Wade is 10th ranked and has earnt £440,000 in prize money over two years. The top 32 players in the rankings at a decided cut-off date earn a place for the annual world championships.

Currently in 32nd is Alan Soutar who has earned £161,000 over two years. Travel expenses can also eat into a darts players earnings with players flying across the world to compete in different competitions.

"We’re talking about honest sports people who have made a good living and a very small select few have made a lot of money," added Nicholson.

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"A stock player will want to earn enough to just get by and maybe save enough to eventually own their own homes. There are some who are playing hand to mouth, and that’s dangerous. Imagine going to an event knowing you had to play a game to pay your mortgage? I’ve been there myself and it’s not uncommon."

Benjamin Goddard

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