THOUSANDS of darts fans converged on Leeds’ First Direct Arena last night for the opening night of this year’s Betway Premier League.
Heavyweights of the prestigious tournament, including Phil Taylor and Peter Wright, played in matches in front of a crowd of around 14,000 fans.
Many attended in fancy dress, including a group of students dressed as cheerleaders and one youngster dressed as Spongebob Squarepants.
And the atmosphere outside the event was electric, with fans travelling from as far as Skegness eager to see their favourites in action.
It was the third time the darts have been played at the arena since 2012- and the second time the Arena has played host to the opening night of the season.
Players in the tournament include the top four of the World Darts Championship alongside six wildcards.
However, reigning Betway Premier League champion Gary Anderson missed his fixture due to a respiratory infection.
He said: “I’m desperately disappointed that I can’t play in Leeds this evening but the truth is that I feel absolutely terrible and I would not have been able to get on stage.
“I was really looking forward to tonight and to playing Adrian but I hope that the fans in Leeds can still enjoy a great night.”
Speakingh before the event, darts fan Robert Firth, 27, from Halifax, said: “I’m looking forward to the matches, it’s my first time here and we’ve brought my nanna. She’s a huge fan of Michael van Gerwen and we even bought her a lime green shirt like his for Christmas.”
And Ed Valentine, 28, from Roundhay, Leeds, said: “It’s going to be a good spectacle. I’m really looking forward to it - I got an interest in watching darts a couple of years ago. Peter Wright is my favourite player, I like his hair.”
Peter Wright’s friend Michael Connolly, 56, said: “Peter’s really excited to be in Leeds tonight. Everyone up here has been so friendly and we love it.”