Premier League stars James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury are pictured at the ‘Covid BOMB’ World Darts Championship in London with 3,000 fans, despite a rise in cases causing havoc to the football schedule
Premier League stars James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury will have their bosses at Leicester sweating after they were among a 3,000-strong crowd at the World Championship Darts on Saturday night.
Darts star Michael van Gerwen, who was ruled out of the tournament after contracting the virus, described the event at Alexandra Palace as a ‘Covid bomb’ but it continues to go ahead.
Bosses bullishly defended the popular PDC event this week amid calls for it to be abandoned due to rising cases among players and with Premier League matches continually falling to Covid, Maddison, Choudhury and Barnes’ trip will likely concern those back at Leicester.
Eighteen Premier League games have been postponed in the last three weeks with Leicester’s game against Norwich on Saturday off due to the number of cases in the Canaries’ squad.
Norwich – who are missing at least 10 players – requested a postponement from the Premier League after explaining how their squad had been ravaged by injuries and positive Covid-19 cases.
The World Championship Darts concludes on Monday, with the winner of that day’s final picking up £500,000, the largest cheque in the sport.
Alexandra Palace has welcomed thousands of people through its doors despite case numbers of the Omicron Covid variant soaring across the country.
James Maddison (left) and Harvey Barnes (right) were seen at the darts on Saturday night
Leicester team-mates Hamza Choudhury (middle) and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (right) also made the trip to London for the World Championship Darts held at Alexandra Palace
World Championship Darts has carried on at Alexandra Palace despite coronavirus concerns
Calls to abandon the darts mid-tournament gained traction when world No 1 Gerwyn Price urged postponement as the event has been ‘devalued’ by the withdrawal of top players.
He did retract his comments on Wednesday but players have been left unhappy with the virus spreading fast among them.
Vincent van der Voort was first to pull out of his third-round match with James Wade after a positive diagnosis, while Raymond van Barneveld revealed he picked up Covid-19 after losing to Rob Cross in round two.
Van Gerwen, who was the third star to be ruled out with a positive test, revealed he was ‘disappointed, confused and angry’ to pull out of the tournament as he ‘did everything possible to avoid’ the Omicron variant that has caused a spike in London cases.
Nonetheless, Maddison, Choudhury and Barnes were keen to not waste a free Saturday with the Norwich game off and they headed to Alexandra Palace.
Darts icon Michael van Gerwen was forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19
A photo on social media showed the Leicester team-mates sat at a table holding William Hill signs. Barnes also has a foam finger on his lap.
Maddison’s sign reads: ‘Oooo an equaliser it’s…’ with an arrow that pointed towards Barnes.
Maddison later delighted many around him by downing a drink from his seat, which earned a huge cheer from the crowd.
While sporting events are being played behind closed doors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland due to the new Covid variant, England have not brought in tougher Covid restrictions as of yet.
There was a record number of 103 new Covid positives recorded among top-flight players and staff last month.
The Premier League have responded by introducing a real-time tracker system in which clubs must provide information on Covid cases, isolation periods, injuries and player availability.
Norwich – who are missing at least 10 players – requested a postponement from the league
There is no risk of clubs running out of testing kits amid the nationwide shortage. The Premier League have paid Prenetics for private testing – daily lateral flows and twice-weekly PCRs – and testing tents have been assembled in most training-ground car parks.
Leicester do not have a Premier League game until January 11 and there has been nothing placed in the league’s emergency measures that stops players attending public events under Plan B.
Maddison posted a day-in-the-life video last week in which he showed the testing players are required to do before reporting for training.
Around 80,000 darts fans, around 3,000 per day, are set to attend the World Championship at Alexandra Palace.
Leicester are next due to be in action on Saturday, January 8, in the FA Cup as they host Watford at the King Power Stadium.
EIGHTEEN POSTPONED PREMIER LEAGUE GAMES THIS SEASON
Brighton v Tottenham
Brentford v Manchester United
Burnley v Watford
Leicester v Tottenham
Manchester United v Brighton
Everton v Leicester
West Ham v Norwich
Watford v Crystal Palace
Southampton v Brentford
Aston Villa v Burnley
Leeds v Liverpool
Wolves v Watford
Burnley v Everton
Leeds v Aston Villa
Arsenal v Wolves
Everton v Newcastle
Leicester v Norwich
Southampton v Newcastle