Eric Bristow MBE, the Crafty Cockney, born in Hackney, London, 25 April 1957 is a British darts player, whose skill at the game in the 1980’s helped turn darts into a worldwide spectator sport.
Bristow won his first world championship in 1980, defeating fellow Londoner Bobby George, and so began a decade's worth of domination, in which he would retain his title in 1981 and win it again in 1984, 1985 and 1986. Like his snooker contemporary Steve Davis, however, he had to cope also with a shock defeat during this period, when young unknown Keith Deller beat him in the 1983 final, not to mention Steve Brennan in the previous year's 1st Round. He finished as runner-up on four other occasions.
The nickname of the Crafty Cockney was given to Bristow when he visited an English pub of that name in 1976 during a visit to Santa Monica, USA. It became a nomenclature which stuck throughout his career. Bristow wore a shirt (which he received from the same pub) depicting a uniformed British policeman, a Union Flag and the title “the Crafty Cockney” whenever he took part in a tournament.
Bristow emerged as the most successful and consistent darts player of the 1980’s, reigning as number one in the world rankings from 1980 until 1987. He was fortunate to have been around at the right time as television began showing increased interest in the sport in the late 1970’s, with the first World Championship occurring in 1978. This, allied to the fact that a governing body had been formed in January 1973 and that Bristow had not only supreme talent for one so young but an imposing personality and uncontained belief, enabled him to make a very successful living.
Cocky and arrogant, he invariably wound opponents up before and during matches with his gamesmanship. Crowds would boo Bristow when he was on stage, no less so than in Scotland, an atmosphere in which he revelled. During the 1982 Arrows Chemicals British International Championship match in Scotland, Bristow was subjected to what Darts World magazine called "the most sustained barrage of jeering witnessed at a darts match" - he played to the crowd during his game with Harry Patterson - following a treble 20, he turned to the crowd (more booing) next dart, treble 20, he turned to the crowd (even more booing, shouting etc) the third dart was single 20 but he smiled and the crowd applauded - Eric Bristow at his incomparable best!
As well as his World Championship exploits, Bristow also lifted the prestigious Winmau World Masters crown no fewer than five times (1977, 1979, 1981, 1983 and 1984). He was the winner of the World Cup singles on four occasions (1983, 1985, 1987, 1989) and won the News of the World tournament in 1983 and 1984, together with countless other major tournaments including the British Open and Swedish Open three times each and the North American Open on four occasions.
Eric Bristow was awarded the MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989 for his services to darts.