AFTER primarily being used by men who wanted to improve their pub game, the demand for St Helens Darts Academy has gone through the roof following the success of Luke Littler.

As many will be aware, Luke Littler shot to stardom at the start of the year after the 16-year-old displayed incredible skill and nerve to reach the final of the darts World Championships.

Although the Warrington-based youngster narrowly missed out on victory, interest in darts has grown exponentially following the teenager's rise to fame, and this can be seen nowhere more clearly than at his former darts academy in St Helens.

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St Helens Star: Demand is through the roof at St Helens Dart AcademyDemand is through the roof at St Helens Dart Academy (Image: St Helens Star)
Karl Holden, who launched the St Helens Darts Academy 11 years ago, said: "The demand for the Academy has beyond grown since the start of the year. We are getting busier and busier and even have 50 people on our waiting list.

"When Michael Smith won the World Championship last year, I'd say demand grew by about 25% or 30%, but with Luke's [rise to fame] it's more than doubled.

"I think it's because kids look at the age of Luke and can resonate with him. They think that they could do that too and the amount of kids playing darts now is unbelievable."

St Helens Star: People of all ages visit the Academy every Monday eveningPeople of all ages visit the Academy every Monday evening (Image: St)
With a lifelong passion for darts, Karl first launched the Darts Academy at Our Lady's Club in Parr back in 2013, with around 80 percent of the club's members being men looking to improve their pub game.

After relocating to Sidac Social Club, on Wheatsheaf Avenue in 2016, it has become known as one of the country's most prolific and influential clubs, with membership figures switching almost completely towards young people looking to learn their trade.

St Helens Star: The Academy's most talented players play in a separate room at the social clubThe Academy's most talented players play in a separate room at the social club (Image: St Helens Star)
To cope with the surge in demand, the Academy has increased its number of boards to fifteen, which includes two assisted boards that can be used by disabled players and two that can be used by the most talented players in a separate room.

The Academy has also started to branch out from its usual Monday evening sessions to offer additional sessions on a Wednesday, and is actively supporting new Academies that are forming in Warrington and Runcorn, as well as a new group at the Windle pub.

With demand also skyrocketing at Karl's darts shop on Folds Lane in Haresfinch, there have also been suggestions that the Academy should have a purpose-built facility to cope with the growing demand.

St Helens Star: Academy members with Luke Littler at his visitAcademy members with Luke Littler at his visit (Image: St Helens Dart Academy)
While Littler's form has continued in this year's Premier League, as well as his victory in the Belgian European Tour, Karl said that the now 17-year-old's best quality is his level-headedness and how down to earth he is.

Karl added: "When Luke first came here aged 10, he was beating all the 14 and 15-year-olds, then he started beating people in the under-21s and then adults.

"People couldn't believe it when they saw him at the World Championships but we all knew how good he was, and the best thing about him is how level-headed he is.

"He's come back to the Academy to speak to all the young kids and sign their playing cards, so he is a cracking kid and that's who these kids look up to and want to be like."