Darts is fast becoming one of the most popular sports for fans across the world to feel involved with and to enjoy attending the live matches. The convivial spirit and banter is part of the game and generally adds to the atmosphere at the events. There have been one or two unsavoury moments down the years, no doubt somewhat fuelled by an excess of alcohol, when a particular player has drawn the wrath of the supporters watching on and it has no doubt affected their performance on stage after being heckled in play. The major events at the Alexandra Palace and the Lakeside for the PDC and BDO darting organisations are televised, with viewers no doubt being amused by the variety of fancy dress outfits and the usually witty messages that the crowds at those venues hold up to pass on to their nearest and dearest, reflecting the family spirit that the sport seems to encourage. Alcohol is allowed to be drunk at such events, although the players no longer drink on stage as was typical in the past, a reflection of the roots of the sport in the pubs and clubs across the country.
It was unusual therefore to hear yesterday about the riot that erupted in Melbourne, Australia, during a darts tournament involving the world number one player, Michael van Gerwen and the former world finalist (and Australian) Simon Whitlock. The arena holds some 56,000 fans when at its capacity and is located in the Melbourne Dockland area. The disruption caused their game to be stopped at the Etihad Stadium while the riot was progressing, as fancy dressed (so-called) fans fought and threw the assembled tables and chairs around the arena.
Much to the bemusement of Dutchman ‘Mighty Mike’ and “The Wizard’, amid surreal scenes that in another place and time may have actually been funny, security guards tried their best to calm the boisterous crowd down. Images recorded showed caped crusader-assistant Robin battling with a man dressed as an English knight, while elsewhere Hawaiian-shirted men and what looked like some Oompa Loompas were involved in throwing their seats around. It took the #Police to end the riot by which time the area where the crowd were sitting had been almost completely wrecked.
The match was eventually able to resume, with van Gerwen taking the victory 9-8 against the local favourite, but by that time the result had become something of a side issue.
The fans are an integral part of ensuring that the sport progresses and reaches out to a wider audience but they need to show some decorum when attending the events. Indeed, the extension of the game that typically used to feature mainly players from the British Isles in the major event such as the world championships, is bound to experience setbacks along the way. Let us hope that this shocking event was a one-off and that more draconian measures are not enforced to mitigate against potential future issues in the sport, perhaps by outlawing alcohol consumption within the arenas where the matches are being played. It is also to be hoped that the elements of society that seem to relish such behaviour and disruption at sporting events have not found a new home within darts.
Darts player Kevin Painter from England has typically walked out to play his matches with the song “I Predict A Riot”, by the group the Kaiser Chiefs, playing in the background in the past. One wonders if the debacle in Australia may cause him to reconsider that choice of music in future.