Luke Littler caused quite a stir over the Christmas period. The 16-year-old darts sensation will compete in the World Championships final tonight against Luke Humphries. Unsurprisingly, Brits are gripped by the teen’s ascent. His semi-final brought in 2.23 million viewers, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. Expect more tonight.
Consequently, there is a huge amount of media attention on Littler. It has even spread from Ally Pally to the other side of the Atlantic. There’s a story on the CNN website and the darts featured at the top of the Morning Brew newsletter today! The risk is that the UK press builds him up to tear him back down again.
There has already been a somewhat uncomfortable moment. Littler faced a backlash because he posed for a picture in The Sun, with the tabloid declaring he loves the paper. Littler comes from Warrington, not all that far from Liverpool where the paper is boycotted and loathed by many over its coverage of the Hillsborough football tragedy. The darts star issued an apology and the whole thing blew over. However, the incident serves as a warning about what both conventional and social media can do.
To reiterate, he is 16. Think of all the stupid things you did from the age of 16 onwards. Now, imagine you’ve also won at least £200,000 in just a couple of weeks. Fellow darts player Gary Anderson has already flagged up the potential issues. Per MailOnline, the former World Champ told reporters:
If it goes t*** up with Luke give yourselves a pat on the back.
Win or lose, the media needs to let everyone, including the teen himself, enjoy the story of Luke Littler.
Update Jan 4 – Record Numbers Watch Luke Littler Lose
So, it wasn’t to be. The 16-old-year eventually lost 7-4 to Luke Humphries in a thrilling match that saw Littler a missed double two away from taking a three-set lead. However, he clearly has captured the country’s imagination. According to Eddie Hearn, a total of 4.8 million watched the Darts World Championship final last night, peaking at 3.71 million. That is a staggering audience for a fairly niche sport. It makes it even more important than Luke Littler is treated properly.