PDC Home Tour: Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright in NHS tribute during new event

PDC Home Tour: Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright in NHS tribute during new event
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Peter Wright

World champion Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright was in action on the opening night of the PDC Home Tour

‘Snakebite’ boasts a multi-coloured mohican with an NHS logo on his head, the ‘Iceman’ competes from his kitchen and two top performers are ruled out because of poor wi-fi connections.

This is live sport – but not as we know it.

With the usual tournaments suspended amid a lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, darts came up with the novel solution of broadcasting matches from players’ homes.

Every player with a tour card has the chance to feature across 32 consecutive nights of the PDC Home Tour. Four will be in action each evening in a league format before the knockout stage of the competition.

Each match is broadcast via video calls – filmed on a mobile phone on a tripod – on the Professional Darts Corporation’s own TV channel and can be watched free by registered users.

And Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright – crowned PDC world champion for the first time in January – headlined the opening contests on Friday.

After a meticulous makeover courtesy of his hairdresser wife Jo, the Scottish-born thrower emerged with the blue-and-white NHS sign painted on the left side of his head as a show of support for health workers.

Wright was flinging in a mini-pub style part of his Suffolk house, while opening opponent Peter Jacques aimed at a board in a bedroom of his Yorkshire home.

Aside from the champion’s spiky plumage, there was no fancy dress, no extravagant walk-ons or boisterous noise associated with big professional darts nights in sold-out arenas with thousands of people.

The throaty calls of “one hundreddd and eightttty” were replaced by the competitors quietly relaying their scores to commentator Dan Dawson in Birmingham, and the numbers were inputted to update on-screen graphics.

Wright took a final-leg decider to win 5-4 in the first match of the round-robin section, finishing with a double 20, double 20 to defeat the man ranked 66 in the world.

But Welshman Jamie Lewis won the group with a shock 5-1 win over Wright among his three victories.

“It’s very difficult as you can’t read your opponent’s body language,” said Wright, who finished with a 5-1 triumph over Dutch youngster Niels Zonneveld.

“I didn’t play very well, but it was a good experience.”

PDC chairman Barry Hearn, who is now “firing on all cylinders” after a recent heart attack, said: “It’s not normal darts but it’s live sport at a time when there’s a desert of opportunities.

“It’s exciting, innovative and it’s going to be shown all over the world.

“I’m really looking forward to not watching endless repeats of other things on television and have something live for once.”

Dan Dawson commentates as the action is filmed from the players’ homes

There are early teething problems to be overcome, with the PDC stream cutting out at one stage and chief executive Matt Porter admitting there had been an “overwhelming volume of traffic” with tens of thousands of online viewers.

With so little sport elsewhere, streaming requests came from countries as far afield as Brazil, Japan, Australia and China.

More than 80 players have expressed an interest in taking part, including some down under, where they would be starting at 4.30am local time.

But two-time world champion Gary Anderson and world number six Daryl Gurney said they were unlikely to compete because of wi-fi issues.

Scot Anderson, who lives in Somerset, even took to social media to illustrate how slow his connection is.

Each competitor will have to overcome their own logistical issues, with the combination of a young baby and dogs in the house potential problems for three-time PDC world champion Michael van Gerwen.

Welsh world number three Gerwyn Price, who plays on Saturday, has set up a board in his kitchen and asked his daughters to stay upstairs.

And two-time BDO world champion Scott Waites said: “My dartboard’s on my landing.

“If I get a bounce-out, nine times out of 10 the dart ends up at the bottom of the stairs. I have to run down 15 steps and back up 15 steps.”

Such are the ups and downs of this abnormal new sporting normal.

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By Famous Reporters

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