Lazar Cartu States: Barry Hearn discusses catalyst to darts’ success during loc…

Barry Hearn discusses catalyst to darts' success during loc...

Lazar Cartu States: Barry Hearn discusses catalyst to darts’ success during loc…

It’s been a busy period for Hearn and Matchroom Sport despite the elongated lockdown

The repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic have had unprecedented and far-reaching consequences on the sporting world, but despite enduring a health scare just months ago, Barry Hearn is relishing the challenge as his respective sports continue to thrive.

Hearn’s appetite for innovation has been the catalyst to a hugely successful career in sports promotion spanning five decades, although those credentials have been tested to the limit over recent months.

However, with many sports struggling to fill the void during lockdown, Hearn – chairman of Matchroom Sport – has seen his offerings of darts, snooker and boxing adapt and evolve to produce live sporting entertainment to the masses.

“These are difficult times for all of us in sport, but at the same time we mustn’t just put our head in the sand and wake me up when it’s all gone. We’ve got to get on with it,” Hearn told the Darts Show podcast.

“We’ve got to roll our sleeves up, be creative, work hard and deliver a product that keeps sports fans amused and sportsmen and sportswomen occupied, so I’m motivated, I’m buzzing.

“We anticipated – that’s probably the key word. Once this pandemic started and everything was thrown up in the air – we’re an event company with 650 event days in a year around the world and suddenly we’re an event company with no events.

“We’ve got a responsibility not just to our broadcasters but our staff, to our players. Most sportsmen in niche sports like ours and the ones we control, they’re self-employed people and they need to work.”

Whilst the imminent prospect of Pro Tour action marks the return of darts in its purest form, it was one of few sports that bucked the trend during lockdown, embracing the ‘new normal’ with the flourishing concept of online darts.

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Luke Woodhouse produced an incredible nine-dart finish in his PDC Home Tour match against Gerwyn Price.

Luke Woodhouse produced an incredible nine-dart finish in his PDC Home Tour match against Gerwyn Price.

The revolutionary PDC Home Tour featured 43 nights of darting entertainment with over 100 PDC Tour Card Holders locking horns from their respective homes around the world, and world No 7 Nathan Aspinall was crowned champion seven days ago.

Luke Woodhouse’s history-making nine-dart finish from his kitchen was one of many memorable moments to emerge from the concept and Hearn lauded the innovative nature of the event.

“We suddenly went from being shutdown to 43 days of Darts At Home which wasn’t the greatest quality, but you know what – it was a sandwich to a starving man to sports fans around the world, and it went all around the world.”

The PDC announced last week that the World Matchplay will go ahead as planned from July 18-26, which will be preceded by the ‘Summer Series’ on July 8-12 – five Players Championship events played behind closed doors at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena.

The Marshall Arena played host to the recent Championship League Snooker on June 1-11, which saw Belgium’s Luca Brecel claim the spoils as the sport enjoyed a successful return to action.

Luca Brecel triumphed as Snooker made a successful return in Milton Keynes

Luca Brecel triumphed as Snooker made a successful return in Milton Keynes

Several players were full of praise for the suitability of the venue and the extensive safety measures put in place and with the eight-player Tour Championship set to be held in Milton Keynes later this month, Hearn was delighted with the outcome.

“The next stage was okay, we can’t have crowds, we need to work within the restrictions we’re under, but what’s stopping us from doing things behind closed doors? It worked and it got great ratings.

“They were happy and we’re learning all the time about adjusting to this Covid-19 situation and one day we’ll be allowed crowds – probably initially small crowds and then we’ll get back to normal and that’s the plan.”

It’s also been an eventful few weeks in the Boxing world, following confirmation that Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have reached an agreement in principle on a two-fight deal.

This comes after Hearn’s son Eddie revealed his audacious Fight Camp plan – where he hopes to host four consecutive weekends of fight night action in July and August at Matchroom’s Essex headquarters.

“Everything in our business is logistics. Everything is about Plan A or Plan B at the moment and sometimes Plan C. We spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week working on ‘what happens if’ scenarios so we’re used to it.

“Boxers are the same which is why Eddie came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea, of doing something so weird and so expensive!

“He’s always good at spending money my son. I love his attitude because he’s even more adventurous than I am, but we have to have plans.

“We were put on earth to provide sporting events. That is our role in life and after 45 years in this business I’m not going to turn away from that for anything.”

Hearn suffered a minor heart-attack in April but such is his passion for sport, he and his Matchroom team have been working tirelessly to salvage as many darts events as possible, in what promises to be a blockbuster period for the sport.

“This is a master plan of recovery, the like of which I have never encountered in my life, but we are all up and ready to go.”

Barry Hearn on the future

The Premier League of Darts is due to resume in Birmingham on July 30 before culminating in October, yet despite the logistical aspects to consider, the 71-year-old is remaining philosophical.

“At the moment everything is in place, everything is organised from rearranged Premier League dates to the Grand Prix and Grand Slam, but obviously we must be led by government instructions that are prevalent at the time,” he continued.

“In this changing society we are living in there is no point panicking about something in November because we don’t have a clue what November looks like. We could have a second spike that could throws all plans into total chaos.

“We could have a similar situation as we have today, in which case we have the option to go behind closed doors, or we could be back to normal or a version of near normal. We are ready and waiting for every and any contingency.

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“This is a master plan of recovery, the like of which I have never encountered in my life, but we are all up and ready to go.”

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Jonathan Cartu

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