‘I started on £27 a week and hated my job’
Darts titan Gary Anderson picked up his first arrow because he couldn’t afford to play pool in the pub, he tells John Wright
Gary Anderson, 47, is a Scottish professional darts player who found fame in 2007 when he won the International Darts League, World Darts Trophy, British Open, Scottish Open and Northern Ireland Open, ending the year as the official world number one.
He won the Professional Darts Corporation World Darts Championship in 2015 and 2016 and is a 10-time major winner.
Today he lives in Burnham-on-sea, Somerset, with his partner Rachel, son Tai and daughter Cheylea.
How did your childhood influence your attitude to money?
Mum and dad always made sure you had something at Christmas and birthdays. My dad worked for British Relay as a TV engineer and my mum was a housewife. So we’ve done all right. I lived in Musselburgh, East Lothian, until I was 24. My parents always supported me with the darts, especially when I played for Scotland.
I’ve always worked, even when I was playing darts, so I wasn’t chucking everything into a bag and gambling it.
What was your first job?
I left school at 17, did college courses where you learnt to weld and paint, general tradesman stuff, and were sent out to work for companies. I got stuck in one for four months making fireplaces, paid about £27 a week, but didn’t enjoy it there at all.
Then at 18 I got shifted to Fireplace Studio in Portobello, closer to my home town, and I worked there for 19 or 20 years, making fireplaces.
I didn’t pick up a dart until I was 25. I was a late starter. I don’t think I could do a day’s work now. I love going back home. I still like to get the tools out if anything needs doing – painting and decorating, woodwork, the bushes and the grass-cutting. I do it all myself.
How much do you earn from darts?
When I won the World Championship in 2016 the prize was £150,000. This year, I won the World Matchplay in Blackpool, winning £115,000, with another £45,000 for hitting a perfect “nine-darter”. Winning the Champions League the other week in Brighton was £100,000. The Las Vegas Classic was £20,000 plus appearance money.
Are you a saver or a spender?
I kind of go with the flow. I try not to waste money. I bought an old Ford
Gary Anderson earned £150,000 when he won the William Hill World Darts Championshiop in 2016
Escort and put it away to show the kids what cars were like back in the Seventies and Eighties. To me that’s what cars look like.
Nowadays it’s all computers and tablets – I’m more a pen and paper man. I get my wages every month and I put it in the bank and it sits there.
When I’m away travelling with the darts, everything goes through the business accounts. Paperwork comes through; I send it to my accountant who does it all. I don’t get stressed. It’s in the bank. If I make nothing off it, I make nothing off it.
What were the best and worst things you’ve bought?
The best were my two Bernese mountain dogs and two bulldogs.
The worst was a cross trainer because it’s never been used. I bought it to get fit, but now I hang my coat on it. It’s staring at me right now. I keep hoping somebody takes it when I’m not looking.
Have you invested in property?
I’ve got my house, that’s it.
Have you ever had trouble paying your bills?
No, even when I was a builder.
Is it true you took up darts as you couldn’t afford to play pool?
Aye, that’s when the pool tables were in the pubs and it was £1 a shot. So if you play 10 games of pool that’s 10 quid, whereas a game of darts costs nothing. I used to sit in the pub and play darts all night long – a couple of cans of Coke, that’d do me.
When did you know darts would become your full-time living?
Ever since I picked up a set of darts. I could play the game well. The first year I picked up a dart, when I was 25, I was unbeaten in the local league. I did that for two years then started the bigger tournaments.
Does money make you happy?
It takes the pressure off, knowing I can feed and clothe the kids. Me, I’m easily entertained. A coffee and I’m happy.
Youngsters now are making so much money. When I started the prizes were a lot lower. You had your wages so the money you won at darts would be put away to pay for your next tournament and travel.
When I started as a professional I was still working. That’s why I don’t get upset when I get beaten. I’ve always enjoyed it as my hobby – I’ve always worked and played darts for fun.
Has professional darts changed in recent years?
Darts has become very big over the last five years. It’s like a job now. Players take up the darts and think, that’s my income. Within a year they get their tour card, qualify for all the TV tournaments and think they’re on the right road. But it’s harder to get into darts now because a lot of youngsters have been watching it for the past few years.
Have you saved for retirement?
Yes, probably because hopefully I’m going to be playing to 50-55 and see how it goes. Nowadays it’s just about every day of the week you’re away travelling and playing. Whatever I’ve got sitting in the bank now I’ll put away for myself and the kids, give them a wee boost when they’re older.
Have you ever gambled?
I’ve had a punt on the horses. The most I’ve ever bet was £50 and I’ve never won anything so I stopped many years ago.
How would you advise people contemplating a career in darts?
Don’t just do darts – go out and get a proper job, even if it’s working on a building site or in an office. If it doesn’t happen for you in the darts, you’ve got a job to fall back on.
Do younger players tease you about being a wise old man?
No. When they start beating me they can start taking the mickey.