Darts chief Barry Hearn lays into Van Gerwen over World Championship comments
Darts godfather Barry Hearn has slammed the “ignorant” calls to postpone the Ally Pally circus and hit back at Michael van Gerwen's 'Covid bomb' outburst.
Despite rocketing infection rates, and three players being kicked out of the William Hill PDC World Championship for testing positive, 80,000 fans have flocked to the event since December 15.
And Hearn, who stepped down as Professional Darts Corporation chairman last year, insisted the empire he built at Matchroom Sport would not be “bullied” into submission.
World No.1 Gerwyn Price, knocked out in a quarter-final thriller against Michael Smith on Saturday night despite a perfect nine-dart leg, called for the tournament to be postponed last week when Dave Chisnall withdrew after a positive test.
The Iceman later backtracked and admitted his knee-jerk reaction was hasty, and Hearn – speaking on BBC Radio – said: “When I hear these people say postpone, they don’t really understand the sports business.
“It is not really a question of postpone – it’s a question of cancel or carry on.
“When you have an event, 17 or 18 days long, which is a global television production, it’s too long an event to say to broadcasters: ‘Can you slip us in in a couple of weeks please?’
“The TV business doesn’t work like that. These people are ignorant. So we have to carry on, we have to battle through.
“In that regard, how good have the players been? At the PDC, 95 out of 96 at the world championship have been double-vaccinated, and the 96th player has had a single dose.
“Compare that to other sports, particularly football – it shows that they are really trying. Of course, they are self-isolating themselves, they are testing themselves regularly, and they are declaring when they fail.”
Van Gerwen took his exclusion from the tournament – and modest £25,000 prize money – badly, accusing the PDC of lax safety protocols and presiding over a “Covid bomb.”
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Hearn countered: “We lost Michael van Gerwen – a big loss. We lost Vincent van der Voort, we lost Dave Chisnall, but I have to say, hindsight is a wonderful advisor.
“I see on social media Vincent and Michael out… You know, not the smartest move, was it?”
Uncle Baz also defended the massed party ranks at Alexandra Palace – despite the risk of 3,000 punters per session turning the event into a super-spreader.
He said: “The fans have all been tested, every single person has gone in there double vaccinated or tested on the day.
“We have done everything we can and we have agreed all of our Covid policy with the Government.
“Now self-employed people (the players) are earning a living the only way they know how – and that is by performing. You can’t take that way. Don’t worry about the three, whoever they are. Worry about the 93.
“We live in a world where somehow or other we have to get through this. We are not going to get through this, frankly, whether it is a sporting or business asset just by closing the doors.
“I’m not easily bullied but I think it’s bullied by public pressure sometimes. There are people out there who would close the entire country down.
“The bullying is by certain people that seem to love big headlines of disaster which, of course, are subsequently and generally proved wrong but then they don’t appear when they are wrong.”
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