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Luke Littler effect puts Alexandra Palace future as host of PDC World Darts

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Barry Hearn says the World Darts Championship’s future at Alexandra Palace is “under discussion” after Luke Littler’s dramatic effect on the sport.

Hearn says the 17-year-old is the “the gift that keeps on giving” after bursting onto the scene and taking darts into the mainstream.

Littler stormed to the 2024 World Championship final in his tournament debut and last week won the Premier League, hitting a nine-dart finish in his 11-7 victory over Luke Humphries in the final.

Alexandra Palace has hosted the World Championship since 2008 but the 3,200-capacity venue is limited and tickets sell out in July before even hitting general sale.

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Speaking on the Love The Darts podcast, Matt Edgar said the sport could be entering a period of Littler dominance

Matchroom Sport president Hearn told the PA news agency: “Do we need to move to a bigger venue? The bigger hall at Ally Pally needs a lot of work done to it but it could handle 6,000 people per session.

“So there is the potential. But the other side of it is the game of darts around the world is getting so huge I actually need to make the World Championship longer.

“If I have got eight extra sessions I have got 25,000 more tickets to sell. But inevitably in the end we are going to be looking at what we are going to do.

“It is one step at a time, I am not a gambler, but sometimes you get a curveball like Luke Littler and you have to rethink your strategy.”

Hearn ‘keeping options open’

Hearn added: “We reckon we could sell 250,000 tickets for the World Championship and they wouldn’t fit in the Ally Pally.

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Highlights as Littler won the Premier League in his debut campaign after defeating world No 1 Luke Humphries 11-7 in the final

“It’s one step at a time, we are looking at the big hall but it needs a lot of work done. We are keeping our options open because we have learned with Luke Littler that you sometimes can’t see what is coming. It’s under discussion with everybody.”

Speaking in April, PDC chief executive Matt Porter said: “It is something that is under constant review but it would take something very special for us to leave Ally Pally.

“It is an iconic venue, it is a beloved venue.

“The World Darts Championship at Ally Pally at Christmas, those three things go together in the same way Wimbledon, strawberries and cream and the summer fit together.

“It is a fantastic venue for the event, we bring a lot of infrastructure with us, in terms of the fan village, and not every venue can do that, there is way more to the Ally Pally than the arena where the darts is played.

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Littler had a message for his doubters after his Premier League victory

“But you can never rule out anything going forward because the event is sold out in July even before it goes on general sale.

“It is a phenomenon and it is up to us to maximise the opportunity and the revenue for the players. You can’t rule it out but you don’t want to fix what is not broken.”

‘Littler like Tiger Woods; darts now at new level in stratosphere’

Littler has already transcended the sport, appearing on Saturday night chat shows and high-profile podcasts while also presenting a Brit Award.

Hearn added: “This is going to a level we have not come across before. Darts is a massive business, but we have gone to another level in the stratosphere. It’s not a massive surprise but it’s the best 2024 present I could have asked for.

“I have had broadcasters around the world queuing up, sponsors wanting to see what’s available, reports from future events selling out.

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Watch Littler’s nine-darter from all angles as ‘The Nuke’ hit perfection at The O2 arena

“Rather than it peter out, it is gaining momentum. I call it now the Luke Littler effect, the gift that keeps on giving.

“I would compare him to the British version of Tiger Woods. He has his feet on the ground and doesn’t seem to get phased, for a 17-year-old that is just amazing.

“I just think that darts hasn’t even started in where it is going to go globally. I have been in this business for 50 years and I have never seen anything like this in any sport, it’s as simple as that.”

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