Darts looked distinctly different at the 2018 PDC campaign curtain-raiser, the Masters Championship in Milton Keynes.
But it wasn’t the absence of now-retired multiple world champion Phil Taylor, nor the presence of his newly-crowned successor Phil Cross.
No, it was the decision by the Professional Darts Corporation to stop using walk-on girls with immediate effect.
It was the first time in over 23 years at a televised PDC event that players hadn’t been flanked on their way to the stage by glamorous models.
A statement from the organisers said: “We regularly review all aspects of our events, and this move has been made following feedback from our host broadcasters.”
Walk-on girls have accompanied players to the oche since 1994, just a couple of years after the birth of the PDC in 1992, in its attempt to attract the wider public to the sport with music, glitz and glamour.
Many fans across social media have argued that walk-on girls are therefore part of darts’ tradition and that their role should very much remain.
However, others have rightly suggested that darts has been around for more than just the two decades that the PDC and the walk-on girls have existed, so it’s far from the be all and end all.
A petition addressed to PDC chairman Barry Hearn has since been started in favour of keeping walk-on girls, attracting more than 40,000 signatures.
A tweet from five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld urging the public to sign the petition read: “I will really miss the girls! For me they are a part of the darts. Sign their petition so they can keep their jobs.”
The models also work at other sporting events, including horse racing, boxing, cycling and as Formula 1 grid girls.
However, F1 has followed in the footsteps of the PDC and announced the withdrawal of models from the sport.
In a statement F1’s managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches said: “Over the last year, we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.
“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 grand prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”
Leading national charity the Women’s Sport Trust also stated: “We applaud the Professional Darts Corporation for moving with the times and deciding to no longer use walk-on girls. Boxing and cycling… your move.”
As momentum and pressure continues to grow, it remains to be seen whether there is a domino effect which ultimately ends the use of female models in promoting sporting events, but it would come as no surprise should others follow suit.