The World Darts Championship should never have been allowed to go ahead with spectators present given the risk of spreading Covid-19, according to a leading health expert
The PDC World Darts Championship has been lamented as “Covid spreading on steroids” after the famous tournament got underway at the Alexandra Palace this week.
The sport’s biggest event is expected to welcome around 80,000 fans between now and January 3, with defending champion Gerwyn Price amongst a host of star names taking part.
The Welshman claimed the 2020/21 title in an empty arena with fans barred from attending as the UK battled a second wave of Covid-19 infections, but despite rising concerns over the omicron variant this time around, a capacity crowd of 3,000 packed into the ‘Ally Pally’ for the opening day on Wednesday.
The majority were in good spirits, with many donning fancy dress and chanting the customary songs that have long made the atmosphere at the event a renowned one.
As of yet, no plans have been unveiled to regulate crowd numbers and Professor Keith Neal, an expert in public health at the University of Nottingham, has said the tournament should never have got underway with spectators in attendance.
“I would tell the local authorities do not let it happen with a crowd,” he told the Daily Mail.
“It is ridiculous. People will be travelling on public transport.
“It is Covid spreading on steroids. There is no concept of social distancing and they will not be wearing masks because they are drinking.”
Like the majority of professional sporting events in the UK at the moment, all spectators are required to display Covid passes – or evidence of a recent negative test – in order to gain entry to the venue.
However, Professor Neal said this was still insufficient in terms of stopping the spread of the virus.
“You need at least three doses of vaccine for an effective Covid pass with Omicron,” he added.
PDC chief Barry Hearn has said organisers would be prepared to adapt if circumstances changed but Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, has backed up Professor Neal’s concerns.
“It has the potential to be a super-spreader event,” he said.
“Within London at the moment, that is where Omicron is rapidly taking off.”
One man who might not be sorry to see the back of crowds is ‘The Iceman’ Price, who had to endure being roundly booed during his 3-1 win over England’s Ritchie Edhouse.