Crawley's K2 leisure centre plays host to the big boys of darts
SOME of the world's top darts players took to the oche in Crawley at the weekend – but local fans of the sport weren't able to watch their heroes in action.
The K2 leisure centre became the home of darts with three tournaments being held in its main hall from Friday to Sunday.
Stars including Dutch masters Michael van Gerwen and five-time world champ Raymond van Barneveld, two-time world champion Adrian Lewis and three-time world champion John Part all appeared.
And sporting rivalries are clearly forgotten once the final dart has been thrown, as just 24 hours after playing one another in a separate tournament van Gerwen and van Barneveld were spotted on Friday night sharing a meal at Pizza Express on The Boulevard.
Blackboys, East Sussex - Woodland For Sale - Guide Price £65,000View details
An attractive parcel of woodland incorporating 4 ponds and in all extending to some 2.8 acres.
Terms: Please call us on 01435 864020
Contact: 01435 510009
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
The sport has been gaining in popularity for years with raucous crowds of up to 10,000 watching some tournaments.
But in Crawley there was an unfamiliar silence surrounding games, which were played behind closed doors.
On Friday players were taking part in a qualifier for the UK Masters while on Saturday and Sunday there were qualifiers for the UK Open.
The hall at the K2 was split into sections with 16 dart boards in place to allow a number of matches to be played at once.
Dave Allen, from the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), explained: "This is the way we have run these qualifying events for the last four years now.
"On both Saturday and Sunday we had 238 competitors and with each player allowed to bring someone with them, we are approaching 500 people in the hall before you even consider an audience.
"Logistically it doesn't work and we don't view these events as being suitable for large crowds.
"We find it works better to let the players concentrate on their game and then earn the right to perform in front of a crowd and on TV if they reach the finals."
Mr Allen explained that the PDC has been a regular visitor to Crawley for the last three years, with further events to be staged in the town in June and September.
At Friday's event, 112 professionals battled it out for 24 places in the UK Masters. Among them was Canadian John Part, who won world titles in 1994, 2003 and 2008.
The weekend belonged to van Gerwen, who finished runner-up to Phil "The Power" Taylor – who didn't compete in Crawley, instead choosing to compete in a different qualifier – in this year's PDC World Championship.
Van Gerwen won both of the UK Open qualifiers, pocketing £12,000 as a result.
On Saturday he beat Dave Chisnall in the final and on Sunday he overcame Brendan Dolan who had beaten Barneveld in the semi-final.
Visiting Crawley was not as successful for former world champion Lewis, though.
On Saturday he lost in the first round and in the second competition made it through to the fourth round before being knocked out.