DARTS should be an Olympic sport, the 13-time world champion Phil Taylor (pictured) claimed today.
The 48-year-old player from Stoke claims that the sport is becoming more competitive and that it has shedded its boozy image because you need to be fit to play it now.
He claimed that was down to the amount of money now available in the sport.
Taylor said: “A good player who comes in the top eight of competitions all year round is now making mega-money.
“What people don’t realise is there are enough tournaments for a pro to be playing twice a week for the entire year.
“If you’re good you can make around £5million a year and that figure is on the increase.
“Sponsorship is going through the roof and it won’t be long before players are looking at £10million.
“But the money means darts is getting more competitive."
Taylor, has reached the last eight of the Ladbrokes.com PDC World Championship at London’s Alexandra Palace, has insisted that the top players are as dedicated as any Olympic athlete.
He said: "You have to commit 100 per cent and never stop practising.
"There are more and more young players coming through as people realise that there’s now so much to the game.
"Like anything else, you get better the more you do it.
"This means if you don’t put in the hours, you won’t make it.
“And fitness is crucial.
"I’m not saying you have to have the stamina of a boxer but these days the pressure and length of games means you need to have energy until the very end.
“I’ve waned toward the end of games because I wasn’t fit and it has cost me the match.
"I just started exercising and watching what I ate and the pounds fell off me.
"I now do lots of swimming, boxing and running and it’s made me feel fantastic.
“But I have to be in decent shape to play at the top level.
“It’s no longer about just drinking beer all night and throwing some arrows.
"Darts is closer to a game like football these days.
"This is why I want to see darts made into an Olympic sport.
"It requires the same dedication and skill as any other event and it baffles me that it isn’t in the line-up when there are other less skilful and less entertaining events.
“I don’t know if it will happen soon but I’m convinced it will one day.
"It needs to.
"Darts as a sport is growing all the time.”
Last month insidethegames exclusively revealed that poker wants to be an Olympic sport, joining a growing list that also includes computer games, Twenty20 cricket and netball.
But the earliest any of them can even begin to bid is for the 2020 Olympics.
The programme for the 2012 London Games was set by the International Olympic Committee at its Session in Singapore in July 2005.
Seven sports - baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens, squash and softball - have been short-listed as possible inclusions on the 2016 Olympic programme.
The IOC is due to announce its decision at its Session in Copenhagen in October 2009.