Matt Porter hoping to welcome back full crowds to the Winter Gardens for the World Matchplay in Blackpool this summer

PDC chief executive Matt Porter says he is hopeful that full crowds will be allowed in for the World Matchplay in Blackpool this summer.

The PDC’s summer showpiece event was the first televised tournament to be held behind closed doors during the pandemic, in July last year.

Dimitri Van den Bergh, a 100-1 outsider, became the first player from Belgium to win a PDC major title, by defeating Gary Anderson in the final, which was held at the Marshall Arena, in Milton Keynes.

It was the first time in the World Matchplay’s history, dating back to its first staging in 1994, that the event was held away from the Winter Gardens, but recent developments have made Porter optimistic that it will return to the Blackpool venue this July.

Tickets for this year’s event went on sale in late December, and last week’s update from the UK government outlined their plans to have most restrictions lifted by June 21 – a month before the World Matchplay’s opening night on July 17.

“The legislation needs to be written up (by the government) and we need to see the details, but we’re obviously hoping by the time we get round to the World Matchplay in July, that we are going to be in a position to push the button to do things as normal,” Porter told the Weekly Dartscast.

“That’s the hope, it will pan out that way over the next few months and we’ll be able to plan the way we’re going to go.

“Probably the hardest decision over the last 12 months was to take the World Matchplay away from Blackpool (last year), but I think it had to be done for necessary reasons.

“But ultimately, as we sit here on March 1st, we’re hoping that the World Matchplay will be played under normal conditions in July.”

This weekend sees the latest PDC televised tournament to be held behind closed doors, with the UK Open switching from its usual venue at Butlin’s Minehead to Milton Keynes.

Last year’s UK Open was the last complete tournament to be held with full crowds by the darts leader, as the Covid-19 pandemic soon forced a break in the tour and upon its resumption either limited crowds or no crowds for their staged events.

“I think it’s obviously been a learning curve for everybody,” Porter said. “And a massive culture change that we’ve had to undergo for the last 12 months.

“Staging the events behind closed doors is not ideal and not something we particularly want to do, but we’ve been forced into it by the circumstances.

“I think we’ve done as well as we could, to be brutally honest. There are little bits and pieces you can do differently, but we’ve kept to our schedule and delivered entertainment to the fans watching.

“The players as well, a lot of them have stepped up to the plate. It could have been an excuse for people to care less, not try as hard or practice less. You’ve only got to see the standard the players are playing at to see that hasn’t been the case.”

Listen to our full interview with PDC chief executive Matt Porter on the Weekly Dartscast podcast tomorrow morning. Available on Spotify, iTunes and all good podcast providers.

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