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Darts Basics: How to Start & Run a Darts League

Note: While this article contains information that can be useful to all types of league organizations, it is specifically written with non-proft "volunteer" clubs in mind.  Future articles will discuss alternate types of leagues, including franchises and for-profit business types of organizations.

Get a group of darts enthusiasts together throwing darts, and eventually someone will say, "Hey, lets start a Darts League!"

That sounds like a great idea to everyone,just startup and run a dart league!  So, they agree to setup a schedule of regular darts matches. Each member will chip in a few dollars for dues, and have a trophy awards party every few months. Cool! A way to get a lot more people throwing, more competition, more fun for everyone!  Your very own darts organization!

However, as with nearly all really cool ideas, implementation is always a whole lot more work than ever imagined!

In most cases, just a few people will be the driving force, and will take on most of the initial responsibility for getting the new dart league running. Everyone should vote or otherwise agree on who will initially be in charge of the project, and somehow raise at least a few hundred dollars in "seed money" to get the venture started. (See below for where that money goes.)

Then the work begins. For all practical purposes, the process is the same as starting a new business or non-profit legal entity. If money is ever collected, spent, given away, or otherwise changes hands, you may be assured that issues of accounting government regulation, and taxes, will in some way have to be dealt with.

Below, are the basic steps that most dart organizations have to go through. Some do it all at the beginning, while others put off parts of the process until forced to. Over a period of years, all of these topics will eventually have to be addressed, one way or another.

(This article is based on the Editor's more than 39 years of experience with dart leagues in the USA. Most of the topics will apply anywhere, but some details may vary in other countries.)

1. Name the Organization. This may include a designation such as League, Club, Association, Organization, Federation, etc. It should be unique, not the same or similar enough to confuse with any other entity. Make it short enough to say easily aloud, and to fit a letterhead. It won't hurt if abbreviations and the initials are catchy and don't make any obscene acronym. Think about how the name will look as a domain name, and check on whether that domain name might be available.

2. Type of League. Will this be a "Trophy" darts league, or a "Money" darts league? In the USA, many or most soft-tip leagues seem to play for monetary prizes, while the majority of steel-tip leagues appear to play for trophies. Keep in mind that whenever money becomes involved in competition, the likelihood of arguments is greatly increased. As with marriages, arguing over money is one of the chief causes of failed leagues.

3. Organizational structure. If money is going to be collected for dues or awards, it is a very good idea to formalize a legal structure for the group. This may be setup as a business, a partnership, corporation, or non-profit entity. Different states & countries will have different options available, as well as legal requirements to meet. In the USA, many leagues organize as Not-For Profit Corporations, to reduce both personal and tax liability. Elect officers as needed to run the league, and as may be required by law for the type of organization.

4. Officers. How many will be needed, and their positions. This can be a complex issue, as personalities often come into play. A new group will nearly always underestimate the amount of work needed to run a dart league. And, no matter how many officers are elected, it is simple fact that just 3 or 4 people will probably end up doing at least 80% of the work. The legal status of the league may dictate a certain minimum number of officers, as well as their responsibilities. Keep in mind that the in the eyes of the law, the President and Treasurer of an Incorporated darts organization may be legally quite similar, for example, to the corporate officers of Enron Corporation. Take the legal responsibilities seriously!

5. Attorney. This is one of the most commonly skipped steps. Unfortunately, not getting legal guidance at the beginning can lead to incredibly messy problems in the future. Ask around among the darts players.. many organizations have a member in the legal profession, who will volunteer services, or at least offer a discount. Lawyers are constantly called on to help setup new businesses and organizations, and will greatly ease the process of starting up the new league.

6. Accounting. Consult an Accountant! This step is also commonly skipped, and is a leading cause of small organizations failing. The accountant, or CPA, can provide a list of the steps needed to deal with banks and tax authorities. The CPA will also help the organization setup a proper bookkeeping system. This can greatly reduce the ulcer rate among officers who might eventually find themselves opening extremely intimidating letters from the tax man.

7. Rules. Will the league write its own rules, or follow the rules of another league or sanctioning body?

8. Business licenses. Most of these may, or may not, have been taken care of when the legal structure of the organization was setup. Assumed Name Permit, Tax Permit or Tax Exempt Certification, Business Operation Permit, etc. Check at the local courthouse to determine what is needed.

9. Bank Account. To get a checking account, the new darts association or league will have to provide certain documentation to the bank. This generally includes proof that the organization is legally registered in one form or another, and may also require proof of registration with the appropriate tax authorities. A minimum starting deposit is usually required, in the USA that often is in the range of $100 to $500.

It is important that bank accounts be setup so that two officer's signatures are required to write checks or make withdrawals. While everyone may start out as bosom buddies, nothing can sour friendships and destroy a league as quickly as money going missing. In some cases, malfeasance can (and has) led to lawsuits, or even arrests of league officers. Having two signatures on every check is simply good policy.

10. Printing. Checks and deposit slips have to be ordered. Membership applications and advertising brochures, flyers, posters, business cards, etc. all need to be designed and printed. Score sheets or match report forms will be needed, and maybe envelopes or postcards for notices. Large envelopes or binders will be needed for team captains to carry their paperwork.

11. Awards. While trophies and certificates may not be needed until the first season ends in a few months, a quote on the cost of producing the awards is needed immediately, so that a budget can be setup. Decisions will have to be made as to the type of awards, and how many people or teams will receive them.

12. Budget. Following the Awards topic above, a budget must be setup, and quotes for all expenses are needed in order to do that. Once all expenses have been added up, the dart league can determine how much income must be generated each season & year. From there, calculate how much to charge for dues, team fees, bar fees, etc.

13. Bonding. This should probably be fit in somewhere among topics of Officers, Legal, and Accounting. "Bonding" mean purchasing a type of insurance call a Bond, which insures against malfeasance or legal charges against key officers. If, for instance, the Treasurer suddenly relocates out-of-town, and the bank account seems much smaller that it should be, this insurance might cover the missing funds. Officers must generally pass a background check for criminal history, which is not a bad idea for people who will be handling a lot of money belonging to someone else. After all, how well do you really know that nice fellow you met in a bar a couple of weeks ago, and who recently volunteered to take care of the checkbook for you?

14. Liability Insurance. The league itself should have some sort of Liability Insurance, and certainly the officers should be covered by such an insurance policy. Face it, Darts is mostly played in bars by competitive people who may become drunk in the course of a league match. Bars are generally the first target of lawsuits involving drunks, bar fights, etc., but it is very true in any kind of damage lawsuit, lawyers may sue everyone in sight, including the darts league. In volunteering to serve as a darts league officer, do you really want to expose yourself to potential legal action due to the actions of other members or officers? An insurance policy will do wonders for your peace of mind, the first time a bar fight occurs, or funds, equipment, etc. disappear.

15. Computer & Software. Officers may use their own computers at first, but sometimes a dedicated laptop is convenient, as all of the league stats, membership data, etc. can stay on one computer that can be taken to league meetings. League software, accounting software, and spreadsheet or database software may be needed. Virtual or "cloud computing" can now take the place of much of this. (That is, if you trust remote servers with information that several people might have an opportunity to access, change, or delete.)

16. Organize the League. Finally! After all of the drudgery of legal, accounting, etc., it is time to sit down with a group of experienced dart league players and design a match format for the new organization. How many players per team. Singles, doubles, or team matches? Games to play? An evening's match should be designed to give every team member a chance to play, yet still allow the darters to leave early enough to drive home and get some sleep before dawn comes around the next morning. Once a format has been decided on, appropriate score sheets, match reports, and notices must be designed and printed. Someone may volunteer their own printer at home or work, but eventually printing expense can add up to a sizable budget item.

17. Internet. A web site can go a long way toward reducing printing & postage costs, especially if match reports and stats are posted on the site. Internet web sites and social media are also some of the least expensive ways to reach a large number of prospective new members. Setting up a web site will usually cost from $75 to $200 per year, for ISP site hosting. The site will need to be designed and maintained, which may be another expense if the league has to pay someone.

Note - Domain Names: It is very important to make certain that the league's domain name is registered in the name of the organization, not the web master. It happens all the time: a web designer is hired to setup a web site, but registers it in his/her own name. At any time, that person can just walk away, taking ownership of the web site with him. It is a major hassle to get the name back, if it can be done at all

The items above cover many, but by no means all, of the steps involved in forming and operating a new darting organization or league. Once you get past these, it is time to grab your darts, go out..

   ..and finally: Play Darts!

See also: Darts League Officers & their duties

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