THE rise of top-level darts shows no sign of abating if this week is anything to go by.

For the first time, the Premier League ventured to Germany and the response in Berlin was a record-breaking crowd of 12,000 all captivated by the big stage and watching the world’s best players in action in the flesh.

From its roots as a pub game that only ever really graced our screens once a year for the world championships around Christmas time, darts is now up there as one the most-watched sports on television.

The impact of live coverage on Sky Sports has undoubtedly aided its rise but credit also has to go to Barry Hearn who helped revamp its image and take it to the masses.

From smoke-filled social clubs to packed arenas, it has certainly come a long way.

Of course, it has still has roots in the pubs and clubs around towns like Bolton where a strong local-league system remains.

Local leagues such as the Astley Bridge League, Triple D Darts and Little Lever Winter League all continue to blossom as do the regular knockouts at the Halliwell Cons Club.

There are rising stars in the area too with Joe Murnan on the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) circuit and others like James Hadjar and Scott Taylor also impressing on a regular basis.

Let’s not forget either, that Bolton is the home of reigning and four-time British Darts Organisation ladies’ world champion Lisa Ashton, who won at the Lakeside last month for the fourth time in five years with another stunning display of arrows.

You can only see the popularity of darts growing even further with the national exposure it now receives.

And the fact the Premier League can now sell out arenas to hordes in fancy dress in Berlin without any German players involved, and also the absence of now-retired darting legend Phil Taylor, just endorses that.

There was time in the early days of the PDC when it was all about watching the likes of Taylor, his mentor Eric Bristow and showmen like those two. They were the big draw.

Of course, Taylor went on to span the next generation that spawned the likes of Dutch sensation Michael van Gerwen and newly-crowned world champion Rob Cross before packing away his flights at the turn of the year.

But the fact the Premier League is as popular as ever without the flagbearer that was Taylor is proof fans still ‘stand up if they love the darts’.

You don’t need Jim Bowen to tell us that promoter Hearn certainly hit the bullseye when he rebooted darts.

Long may it continue.