No World Matchplay in Blackpool this year as darts spectacular goes behind closed doors in Milton Keynes
The Betfred World Matchplay darts championship will not be played at its traditional Blackpool home this month and will instead be staged behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.
The Professional Darts Corporation has confirmed that after 26 successive years at the Winter Gardens, the summer showpiece is to be held at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes from July 18-26.
A final announcement was delayed until this month in the hope that the annual battle for the Phil Taylor Trophy - named after the oche legend who won this title 16 times - could go ahead at its Blackpool home in front of a crowd.
The PDC vows that the annual spectacular featuring 32 of the world's top players will return to its "spiritual home" for 2021.
In a statement released this afternoon, the PDC says it: "held extensive talks with the Government, the venue, host broadcaster Sky Sports and other stakeholders in an attempt to find a safe solution for the World Matchplay to be staged at the Winter Gardens.
"However, with this not being possible the tournament will now - for the first time since being introduced in 1994 - be played behind closed doors, with the Marshall Arena being able to provide a protected environment to ensure the safe staging of the event."
PDC chief executive Matt Porter said: “This is an unprecedented step for us to take and this tough decision has been made only after exhausting all possible options in a bid to stage the Betfred World Matchplay with a limited crowd in Blackpool.
“We thank the Department of Culture Media and Sport for their co-operation throughout the process and also the Winter Gardens and Blackpool Council, who remained committed to hosting the event throughout the process.
“Whilst this will be disappointing for the thousands of fans who had planned to watch the 2020 Betfred World Matchplay live in Blackpool, we will be offering those fans the chance to defer their tickets to 2021, when the tournament will return to its spiritual home.”
Tickets booked for the 2020 Betfred World Matchplay will be transferred to the equivalent session of next year's event, which is scheduled for July 17-25, unless the ticket-holders request a refund. A refund for the ticket base price can be obtained from point of purchase.
The line-up for this year's Betfred World Matchplay will be finalised after the PDC Summer Series, also in Milton Keynes. These five Players Championships will be played on successive days starting next Wednesday.