The PDC World Darts Championship always has an extra sense of theatre and anticipation compared to other tournaments. Bright lights, boisterous crowds and festive fancy dress all add to the spectacle of the most prestigious tournament in darts.

This familiar atmosphere made the negative reaction on social media towards the crowd during Fallon Sherrock’s matches all the more puzzling.

Fallon Sherrock’s history-making run in the World Darts Championships ended in the third round after losing 4-2 to the 24th seed Chris Dobey. Before that, the Queen of the Palace shocked the world by beating Ted Evetts in the first round and 11th seed Mensur Suljovic in the second round.

The crowd support across all of Sherrock’s matches caused certain sections of social media to cry foul. No derogatory statements were made about her gender, but accusations were hurled over fairness, as the crowd booed her opponents during their throw. For them, the crowd spoiled the history making moment of a female darts player beating her male counterparts on the world stage.

But that atmosphere has been an intrinsic part of the World Championship and televised darts. The fans do not take anything away from Sherrock’s performances, they only enhanced them.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

No excuse

Their chants added to the spectacle of Sherrock’s matches and her momentous run on the biggest stage in darts. Even her opponents agreed; Ted Evetts covered the issue in his post-match interview with Live Darts.

Super Ted said Sherrock played better than him and he could not blame the one-sided crowd. He said: “In patches I was really good but even in my good patches she was keeping up with me, she showed utter class.

“I can’t use the crowd as an excuse, it just comes down to my own bottle really, nothing to do with anything else. “Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of history tonight.”

Without the full arenas and the freedom for fans to express themselves and back their favourite players, televised darts would not be considered the current staple to Sky TV it is today.

Many will argue that darts fans should behave similarly to those of other sports such as golf or snooker, but it is only natural for darts crowds to be lively and animated. This is not the atmosphere which Barry Hearn developed at tournaments in the PDC.

He wanted to tap into what the crowds were like when the sport was first broadcast on ITV. In the original News of the World tournaments, broadcast by ITV at the Alexandra Palace and other London venues during the 1970s and 1980s, rip-roaring crowds of up to 12,000 gathered to watch tournaments.

Now, with even brighter lights and more money than ever up for grabs, players should accept that fans will get involved during and in between their throw, and it is up to them to deal with that extra pressure. In the 2013 ITV documentary The Power of Darts, the late Eric Bristow said dealing with crowd participation was just another part of playing darts at a serious level.

He said: “If you want to get involved in this game, where there is millions and millions of pounds involved and your worried about noise, don’t get into it. Go and play snooker.

“When you first start playing darts and your down the pub and you’re playing on a Friday night in an important darts match at the end of the pub and somebody puts the juke box on, you’re not going to go down there and say “can you turn the jukebox off because were playing darts.”

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Heroes and villains

Fans will always have their heroes and villains and most of the time, it is out of the players control whether they support you or not. It is up to the players to be mentally resilient enough to maintain their performance throughout the match; even if the crowd is on their back.

Just like in other one versus one sports, athletes have to perform under pressure from interactive crowds. Boxers and MMA fighters strive to compete on the biggest stage and for the highest pay days. Darts players are no different in that sense. They compete in the most prominent tournaments they can and have to thrive under pressure in an often-intense atmosphere.

For darts to be treated like the legitimate sport it is, in which players dedicate their lives to the to playing the sport they love, complaints about the crowd being too noisy should be put to the side. This reaction has only gotten traction because fans are booing popular players.

No defence for Price

No one came to the defence of Gerwyn Price, who was berated ferociously for the best part of a year after his off-the-oche antics at the 2018 Grand Slam.

It was up to the mental strength of The Iceman to silence his critics. He embraced being the villain and is currently in the form of his life, retaining the Grand Slam in 2019 and winning multiple Pro Tour events.

In an interview with the Guardian, Price said he does not mind the boos but they can go too far on occasion.

He said: “Obviously you notice. You don’t mind booing through games. The crowd pay their money, and that’s how you earn a living. I can take a bit of the pantomime villain. But if you’re going for a double, that’s when you should just get a little bit of respect.”

As Price mentioned, sometimes the crowd can go too far, but the fans are an integral part to the whole experience of TV darts. Fallon Sherrock’s story book run would not have been the same without the cheers and jeers, during and after the matches.

Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

Photo: Pieter Verbeek/PV-Darts

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Author: Freddie Webb