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Brokers pin hopes on darts being Riyadh’s next big sporting target

Saudi Arabia darts potential Alamy via Reuters
17-year-old Luke Littler took the PDC World Darts Championship by storm at the start of 2024, making it all the way to the final in Alexandra Palace
  • Talks on moving PDC World Championship
  • Hearns linked to Riyadh snooker and boxing
  • Ex-champion backs alcohol-free event

Darts could be the next major sport to be staged in Saudi Arabia, with strong family ties linking it to brokers who have already negotiated deals in the kingdom, according to a leading sports analyst.

Veteran sports promoter Barry Hearn revealed that discussions have taken place with a view to moving the PDC Darts World Championships from London’s Alexandra Palace to the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Hearn, a former chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and founder of Matchroom Sport, told the UK’s Daily Mirror newspaper that he had “spoken to the Saudis and they were very keen”.

“But of course there’s no alcohol in Saudi Arabia. There will be quite soon. And when it does, the first event they will want to stage [there] will be darts.”

Hearn and his son Eddie were heavily involved in launching the inaugural Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker, which took place in March and was won by seven-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

He has also spoken of potentially taking the Snooker World Championship from the Crucible in Sheffield to Saudi Arabia when the hosting deal comes to an end in 2027.

Eddie Hearn is head of Matchroom Boxing and has been front and centre at bringing some of the biggest bouts to the kingdom in recent years, including former World Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s clashes against Andy Ruiz, Olexander Usyk and most recently with Francis Ngannou.

“Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is now charged with identifying sport investment opportunities where there is evidence of global profile but commercial underachievement,” said Professor Simon Chadwick, of the Skema Business School in Paris.

“It is worth keeping in mind too that it is often the same individuals who are pitching such opportunities to the Saudis – some prominent members of the darts community are also prominent members of the boxing community.”

The potential darts move to the kingdom has been backed by former PDC World Champion Gerwyn Price – and he insisted the absence of alcohol at the sport’s most famous event would be a plus.

Writing on his Instagram account, Price said that alcohol “spoils/dictates the outcome of the game in what’s the most important event of the year for the players”.

He added: “People can still enjoy themselves without alcohol.”

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