The Englishman who turned snooker, darts and ping pong into multi-million dollar international phenomena has announced the first professional darts tournament in the Middle East in a bid to spread the money-making sport to the region.
The two-day tournament will bring the top eight players in the world, including 16-time world champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, to Dubai and will kick off the inaugural six-tournament World Series of Darts.
There are no professional darts players in the Middle East, but Professional Darts Corporation chairman Barry Hearn – who has generated millions from turning the pub game into a television success – said it was a “hugely popular” grassroots sport in the region, which was yet to be financially exploited.
Hearn, who is now believed to be worth GDP£20m, said the Middle East was an important market to spread the darts empire worldwide.
“The Middle East is developing more and more of a reputation for quality events,” Hearn said. “If you’re looking at a global expansion, I don’t think you can ignore the Middle East anymore. You’ve got a high standard of living, you’ve got excellent facilities, you’ve got great TV production; it’s a good time zone as well.
“It ticks an awful lot of boxes. The box we don’t know about is the live audience box. Do we get, as we get in every other event around the world, sold out notices? That’s the key, and we won’t know that until we do it.”
Hearn said reaction on the internet indicated there was “an awful lot” of enthusiasm for the game in Dubai.
He expected the event to attract an initial crowd of about 4,000, with millions more watching the event on pay TV, helping to spread its popularity even further in the region.
The Dubai tournament is sponsored by Dubai Duty Free and is backed by One Events and Radar.
The knockout competition will be held at the Dubai Tennis Centre May 23-24. Tickets cost from AED199 (US$54) for one day or AED299 for two days.