As we begin to move beyond the Covid era it is perhaps worth preserving a memory of what it was like in midst of 2020. Legendary PDC lensman Lawrence Lustig was one of the few none players (or officials) present during the Summer Series when one on one darts started again. He captured the experience in both words and pictures for us :
Who would have thought that darts in ‘a bubble’ would be such a thing in 2020?
Like many other sports, darts made its first steps on its journey back to normality as the country begins to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown.
However, the Summer Series [In 2020] was nothing like the ‘normal’ we know.
Held behind closed doors over five days at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes the PDC, following the Government regulations, created a ‘bubble’ to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all those involved.
So what was it like?
The Marshall Arena is part of a complex attached to Milton Keynes Dons football ground which stands on the edge of town and attached to the stadium is the DoubleTree Hotel and the Marshall Arena.
On arrival you were instructed to take everything you would need for your stay into the hotel with you as once tested and in the ‘bubble’ there was no leaving, even to go to your car to pick up that phone charger or anything else you may have forgotten, to do so would mean you would not be allowed back.
On the door you were greeted by security who checked your name off a list and showed you to a desk where hotel staff took your temperature and details and gave you a fresh face mask, then directed you to check-in where you were presented with a room key and instructed you to go to a holding area and wait until your name was called.
Then another member of security took you up to the room where yours and 228 other full Covid-19 tests would be undertaken by medical staff, that over, you were escorted to your room where you were to stay until you were informed of your results, mine was around 18 hours later at 9am the next morning and thankfully it was negative as were all the others.
As I pondered whether I should hold off unpacking,at least until I got my results, the phone rang and a pleasant lady asked if I would like to place a food order from the special room service menu left on the side and what time I would like it, bang on the dot, a knock at my door and a member of staff, dressed in PPE left a bag by my door containing my meal in disposable containers with plastic disposable cutlery.
Unlike a normal hotel stay we were told the room would not be cleaned, the towels not replaced, the bed not made, that is unless you did it yourself, with all clean linen left in open rooms on each floor, this was all to preserve the ‘bubble’, no one in no one out unless you were gone for good!
With my negative result I could finally leave my room and follow the signs to registration where I was given my all-important blue wristband as Richard North serenaded us with an impromptu set on the piano, then it was through the corridor and into the Arena where a clearly signed one-way system was in operation and strict social distancing adhered to with notices, signs and sanitation points all around.
There was a limited number of officials so up to the quarter-finals, losing players had to mark the next game on their board with the scoring pad and player’s tables cleaned and disinfected between matches and a ‘safety zone’ clearly marked at the oche while the players brought their own bottles of water with them.
The Summer Series was held in place of some of the ProTour events were postponed during lockdown so the multi-board with no fans format was not so strange, and the layoff had clearly not affected the players judging by the high standard of darts they played and a couple of nine-darters thrown.
Darts in a bubble was a huge success and the professionalism shown by all involved shows PDC darts is in a good place.
No one can burst that bubble.
Words and Images by L Lustig.
Lawrence Lustig is the official PDC photographer.
Article originally appeared in Darts World Magazine (Issue 570)
Darts World Magazine (Issue 577) and 2022 bundle offers
Subscribe or purchase your copy