OH! how we love Christmas; turkey, presents, hangovers, The Queen, and Dave Clark in our front rooms every day. But it will definitely look very different when mid-December hits in 2020. The question is just how different?
There will certainly not be the much-loved Clarky on our screens after he retired before the Matchplay. The slick presenter will be sitting at home tuning in while no doubt listening to his Bruce Springsteen back catalogue. Over the years we have been blessed by Sky Sports’ indulgence for the arrows over the festives. The solid darts channel is something of a novelty, the old radial sections of black, red, beige, and green becoming a constant televisual wallpaper backdrop in most households. Before and after the live stuff, we are treated to Taylor, Manley, Harrington, Lloyd, and Mardle slugging it out in the classics.
However, it’s the live stuff that is of most concern for this year’s Worlds. The PDC has strenuously battled to get fans back into arenas and gripped as tightly as they can to the iconic venues. Barry Hearn and Matt Porter are very much in touch with the essence of this sport, what gives it that unique entertainment value. While getting the World Matchplay and Premier League on in Milton Keynes was something of a small miracle, to the non-darting armchair fans, it’s a flat viewing experience compared to a packed arena of dressed up Supermen, Cinderellas, and Minions singing Walking In A Taylor Wonderland. The Ally Pally without fans is simply unthinkable. Well folks, get thinking it. It seems remarkably unlikely that fans will attend sporting events this year, especially after the new restrictions announced on September 22.
To be quite honest, snobbery and shock have to stop here. We just can’t go around casting holier than thou opinions that “you can’t have the Worlds without fans, it won’t be the same”. The brutal truth is that we’ll have to live with that. As Jacob Rees-Mogg would say, stop carping and be grateful that it’s still on at all. The PDC, to their credit, have kept pushing for normality and undoubtedly taken a massive financial hit without ticket sales. Yet they’ve not shut up shop. They’ve kept the sport on TV.
It is perhaps right to say that there are bigger headaches out there for the PDC. How do they bring in players from all around the world? How do they keep players in a corona bubble if they have several days between matches? So let’s just accept now there won’t be fans. And just be happy we’ve got darts to watch on TV.
On the same subject, the January blues are going to be a bit more biting in 2021 with little chance of an amateur World Championship. The BDO’s tragic demise has been a slow-motion horror story for a year or so now. With the state of the UK gripped by Covid-19, I think we can kiss goodbye to a Championship being hastily arranged within three or four months. Let’s hope that somehow there is a phoenix from the flames.
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