‘I’ve spoken with Saudis over darts following boxing – however there’s no booze’

PDC chief Barry Hearn has revealed that while Saudi Arabia has shown a keen interest in hosting darts, the move won’t materialise too soon.

Boxing and snooker have already made their mark in the country with many huge fights taking place over the past year, but it’s yet to be seen when darts will follow suit. In an exclusive chat with the Mirror, Hearn said: “I have spoken to the Saudis and they were very keen.” However, he cautioned about the alcohol prohibition in Saudi, adding: “But of course there’s no alcohol in Saudi.”

Still, he sees a future there, saying: “There will be quite soon. And when it does, the first event they will want to stage in Saudi will be darts.”

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The stakes for Darts are set high in the Middle East, despite their premier events being dwarfed compared to those elsewhere. However, the PDC World Championship still takes the award for the highest pot available. With half a million quid up for grabs at Ally Pally, it’s no wonder words of a move are starting to circulate.

Speaking on the subject of potential venue change, Hearn highlighted the PDC need to consider if Alexandra Palace continues to meet their requirements as it can only support 3,200 fans per session – a small number considering The Premier League pulled in over 150,000 attendees across its 17 nights.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Luke Littler of England celebrates with the trophy after winning the Final match against Luke Humphries of England at the 2024 BetMGM Premier League Darts Play-Offs at The O2 Arena on May 23, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Luke Littler and his fellow players could be heading to Saudi for future events

“It’s a great atmosphere at Ally Pally, but well, we’re looking at it,” the 75-year-old said. “And we’re going to be very adventurous because we have tremendous demands all around the world for people that want to play in the World Darts Championship from different countries.

“So we’ve got to start looking at making the World Championships bigger. If I went from 96 players to 128 for example, which I can easily do in a heartbeat, it brings in a lot more TV money from different countries.

“And from the fans point of view, it gives me an extra 25,000 seats. Still nowhere near enough. I could sell a quarter of a million seats for the world championship. I sell 90,000.

“Do I go into the big hall? I think there’s a lot of work, but that would give me 6000 seats. And I’d still be at Ally Pally. Or do I go somewhere else Everyone will say, ‘are you gonna take it to Saudi?’ Well, no, don’t be silly. They’re not ready yet, But they won’t be far along.

“They won’t allow alcohol and the essence of darts is it’s party time, isn’t it? It’s fun as well as great sport.”