Darts legend John Lowe has been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours list for services to darts and to charity.

One of the elite group of darts players to become a three-time World Champion, Lowe's achievements came across three decades with victories in 1979, 1987 and 1993.

The Team Unicorn star, now 73, was also the World Masters champion twice and News of the World Championship winner, but is arguably best-known for his achievement in recording the first televised nine-darter at the 1984 MFI World Matchplay.

The famous footage of Lowe's perfect leg against Keith Deller, commentated upon by Dave Lanning, continues to enjoy worldwide airplay as a landmark moment for the sport.

He retired from competing on the PDC circuit at the end of 2007, having been a semi-finalist in the World Championship, World Matchplay and World Grand Prix after being one of the founder players following darts' split.

Lowe was inducted into the PDC Hall of Fame alongside great rival Eric Bristow MBE in 2005 and had enjoyed a 30-year professional career.

"I was away in Cyprus on holiday when the letter arrived and my son passed on the message, and I couldn't believe it to be quite honest," said Lowe.

"It took a while to sink in and I think it will only become real when I go to the Palace and collect the award.

"It's such an honour for me and a wonderful thing to receive."

The nine-darter remains one of darts' most famous moments, and Lowe added: "It's still something people talk to be about and it's tremendous.

"You hear that millions of people have seen it on YouTube, and although I've not been on TV for over a decade it keeps you remembered because fathers show it to their kids.

"I don't think it's every going to be forgotten anyway because it was the first TV nine-darter and you always remember the first more than anything.

"It's still mentioned now and another programme which keeps us players remembered is Bullseye, which is still being shown.

"People stop me in the supermarket and tell me that they saw me on Bullseye the previous evening, and things like that are lovely."

Lowe's MBE comes at the end of the year which saw Bristow pass away, and he added that it was a poignant moment to be recognised alongside his close friend, who was awarded an MBE in 1989.

"We had a great rivalry and it's the foundation of what we've got today," said Lowe. "We didn't do it purposely, it was just us being who we were.

"That's the tinge of sadness, that Eric is not here. We would have had the biggest party.

"Mike Watterson, who set up the World Championship originally with the BDO and also helped set up the World Snooker Championship, had proposed me but I know that Eric had supported that nomination, which means a lot.

"We played together all over the world, and are the most successful pair ever in darts - we won six World Cups, six European Cups, the British Open three times in a row without losing.

"It would have been fitting if he was here to celebrate, but sadly he's left us."

Unicorn Darts Chairman Stanley Lowy says: “I first met John in 1976 when he won through the earlier rounds to appear in the Finals Weekend in London of the second Unicorn World Darts Championship. He was a young player of distinction.

“Barry Twomlow, who won the News of the World Darts Championship in 1968-69 and who was Unicorn’s roving Darts Ambassador, drew my attention to John’s exceptional dart talent.

“As a result we met with John and he entered into a promotions contract with us in about 1978. There have been many renewals of that contract over the years and the contract goes on. John is still over 40 years later promoting our products as he goes about demonstrating his consummate skill for the delight of darts enthusiasts everywhere.

“John has brought distinction to the sport and has a string of darting achievements. He has an enviable reputation for supporting numerous charitable causes during a long life of public service and service to the sport he loves.

“I have been privileged to know John as not only an outstanding dart player but more importantly as a special friend. I am delighted that he is now honoured and offer him my sincere congratulations.”

Lowe continues to play darts on the exhibition circuit and in charity events, and recently visited China alongside fellow former World Champion Dennis Priestley.

"I've just come back from China, where I was with Dennis Priestley for a competition out there which was on TV, and there were 37 million viewers when we played," he added.

"It's quite amazing and to still be involved is incredible. I've not played competitively on TV for over ten years, so to be asked to go to China and to get such a reception was great.

"I've been there a few times and darts has taken me all over the world over the last four decades. It's been an amazing journey."

Lowe remains a huge fan of the sport and has been following the William Hill World Darts Championship avidly over the festive period.

He said: "Someone suggested to me recently that all past champions should receive an invitation to the World Championship, like they do in The Masters golf.

"I know that one golfer was 94 years old and he replied that he was honoured to be invited but declined. If I was asked to play in the PDC World Championship, I would probably decline.

"I watched the game between fellow Team Unicorn players Gary Anderson and Chris Dobey and it was incredible, and you have got to consider that if you did accept, you would be in that company.

"I think it would still be nice for people to be invited but they'd have to make their own mind up if they were quite good enough to play at that standard.

"The game has progressed and everything about the game is bigger and better now."

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