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Barry Hearn has accused the government of “slapping sport in the face” after the World Darts Championship was forced to go behind closed doors. London enters tier three Covid-19 restrictions from Wednesday, meaning plans for 1,000 people to attend each session at Alexandra Palace had to be scrapped.
Peter Wright will begin his defence of the PDC World Darts Championship trophy in front of fans this evening, but the rest of the event, which runs until January 3, will have no one in attendance.
The government has said it plans to look at restrictions again on December 23, but sporting events are now preparing to take place behind closed doors once again.
Hearn, who is the Professional Darts Corporation chairman, is frustrated by the lack of consistency in the rules and messaging, which has changed frequently over recent months.
Anthony Joshua’s win over Kubrat Pulev at London’s SSE Arena on Saturday night, which was arranged by Hearn’s son boxing promoter Eddie, had supporters in attendance.
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London and other areas of the south-east moving into tier three from Wednesday means that currently Liverpool, Everton, Brighton and Southampton are the only Premier League clubs allowed to have up to 2,000 spectators at matches.
“We had the AJ fight on Saturday, there was 1,000 people there, they all had a good time, they behaved themselves, security was very good, they met all the criteria and it passed without any problems,” Hearn told talkSPORT.
“We can’t go one day this, one day that forever. We have either got to say ‘close the lot or open it’. You can’t have a world of inconsistency because people don’t know where they are and that involves sport.
“I am getting very frustrated, we are doing all the work and then getting slapped in the face.”
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This is not the first time Hearn has been forced to deal with a lack of fans, having suffered the same fate with the snooker World Championships at the Crucible over the summer.
The tournament was due to be played in front of a crowd from the start on July 31, but restrictions were upped just before it began.
“We had the same situation with the snooker World Championships, we did a huge amount of work, huge costs to get everything Covid-friendly as much as you can, and then the plug was pulled on us 24 hours later,” Hearn, the World Snooker chairman, said.
“Sport is such an important part of this country’s mental health, this country’s entertainment and yet they are throwing us around like a used doll.
“It is going to have fundamental long-term effects on the whole country and sport if we don’t get a grip on this. We have got to stop changing our policy every other day.”
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