Leeds First Direct Arena hits bullseye to welcome masters of dart

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They descended like spear-wielding gladiators on Leeds’s own arena - and wowed the crowds with their pointedly perfect antics.

The world’s best darts players were in town last night, going head to head at the First Direct Arena for the launch of the Betway Premier League Darts 2015 UK & Ireland tour. And the pulsating night proved that when it comes to entertainment, these guys hit the bullseye every time.

PIC: Steve Riding

PIC: Steve Riding

A sellout crowd of happy sports fans saw reigning champion Raymond van Barneveld, current World Champion Michael van Gerwen and 16-times world champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor headlining 10 players, all competing for a huge cash prize.

Speaking ahead of the competition, legendary player Taylor said: “Leeds has probably become one of the best venues we do.

“It is going to be buzzing.

“You go out there and it’s like Russell Crowe in Gladiator when he first walks in the arena and looks around. It is that inspiring, it is awesome.”

The event is another sporting feather in the cap of Leeds’s flagship arena.

Venue director Tony Watson told the YEP the 11,300 capacity night was “pretty much sold out”, with audience numbers trumping the 10,500 who turned up to the tournament’s first visit last year.

Asked why darts has such an enduring mass appeal, he said it was “exciting for the crowd and just a great night out”.

“The atmosphere is brilliant, people come in big groups in fancy dress and it’s a great night of world class sport,” he said.

He added that with the successful hosting of the Sports Personality of the Year and the Tour de France opening ceremony, the arena has now established a real pedigree as a sporting venue as well as a rock and roll mecca. It will also host the WBC World Featherweight boxing bout, featuring Leeds’s very own Josh Warrington, in April.