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Coronavirus: Why darts is thriving online during lockdown – BBC News

The tension. The upsets. The atmosphere. At this stage, you might even be missing the flat beer and over-priced food.

Although it might feel like longer, it’s only just over a month since sport was, essentially, cancelled as part of the effort to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But what if, in some magical corner of the sporting universe, everything had been quietly carrying on almost as normal – and not a single social distancing rule had been broken?

Well – we’re here to tell you that this sport exists.

And its name is darts.

‘Everyone wants to keep playing’

Darts’ secret weapon right now is that to compete against someone, you don’t need to be in the same room as them.

And this has meant that, pretty much since the lockdown started, players have still been able to face off against each other – and stream the whole thing to fans.

“Everyone just wants to carry on playing darts. I definitely do because everyone’s noticing darts at the moment, so you just want to keep it going,” Fallon Sherrock tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The 25-year-old made history last year by becoming the first woman to beat a man at the PDC World Championship.

Fallon has signed up to an online tournament called MODUS Icons of Darts that has already been running for two weeks and streams live for nine hours a day.

She’s making her debut next week – and says it’s only technical difficulties that mean she’s taken this long to get started.

“I’ve been rushing to get my internet sorted in time,” she laughs.

“I’ve been asked by top players to play against them online, people like world number three Gerwyn Price, but I’ve just been sorting my internet out so I can play.”

But what started out with smaller tournaments has snowballed – and now darts’ main governing body has announced the greatest players in the world are competing over 32 consecutive nights in what’s known as the PDC Home Tour.

And the whole thing is free to watch online.

“It beats watching the news and all the horrible things going on around the world – so we’re going to have a bit of fun with darts,” current PDC World Champion Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright tells Newsbeat.

On stage in front of thousands of fans the 50-year-old is a massive character: he’s got a multi-coloured Mohawk, he dances around to Pitbull and he’s not afraid of working a crowd.

As for his online debut, all he’ll give away is that his wife’s got “something planned” for his hair but, like Fallon, Peter seems most nervous about getting the technology to work.

“I don’t really do electronics so it’s all going to be a bit strange for me. Chatting to you is only the second time I’ve used Skype.

“But we’re going to take it serious. Hopefully those people out there who haven’t watched darts before will enjoy it and maybe get themselves a board and start playing.”

So, with almost as many hours of online darts on offer as there are hours in the day, you’d be forgiven for wondering who’s actually going to be watching.

A big factor in pulling in viewers, according to fan Ricardo Maraia, will be how they replicate the famous darts atmosphere.

“The walk-ons, the ‘One-hundred-and-eighty’ shouts and even the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ when someone misses their doubles – you won’t have that with these tournaments unless someone’s partner is being quite unsupportive in the background,” he laughs.

“But we all need our sporting fix right now and darts is in a really unique and privileged position.”

And even though Ricardo thinks the lack of an atmosphere could be a big drawback, he actually thinks there might be some positives.

“It’s often said in darts that a lot of players perform better in practice so we might see an equally high, if not better, standard of darts in these tournaments.

“You might get players who freeze on the big stage who feel a bit more comfortable in their own homes and could knock out some well-known players.”

PDC Home Tour matches can be watched for free via the PDC website.

MODUS Live League of Darts matches are also free to watch and can be found on the MODUS website.

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