The Winter Gardens in Blackpool will undergo a swift transformation as the Betfred World Matchplay darts tournament prepares to pivot to capacity crowds as soon as coronavirus restrictions ease on July 19.
The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) has told the PA news agency that crowds will more than double overnight. It plans for the venue to be at its full capacity of just under 2,000 for each session from July 19, up from 803 per session for the first two days of the tournament on July 17 and 18.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that the Government intended to ease all remaining measures on July 19, with a final decision to come on July 12.
The World Matchplay will be among the first events to benefit from the change, and PDC head of media Dave Allen said: “In many ways it will look like 2019.”
Allen said the venue would be overhauled after the completion of Sunday night’s action in readiness for the Monday evening session starting at 7pm.
The layout of tables will be radically different from Sunday night to Monday and darts fans will be able to welcome the return of the walk-on.
There will also be a standing area for spectators, something which has been unique to Blackpool among PDC events.
Face coverings cease to be a legal requirement from July 19, and Allen said: “We are still clarifying if any specific regulations will apply and we would follow these where required, but at present we do not expect fans will need to wear a mask within the venue.”
On the first two days of competition, face coverings must be worn when spectators are not seated.
Allen also said there would be no requirement to prove full vaccination or any other form of self-certification, such as a recent negative test.
The Government does not intend to make such certification mandatory, but will leave it at an event organiser’s discretion if they wish to make use of the system.
Cartmel Racecourse will be one of the first venues to open its doors on July 19 for a daytime meeting, but is still working with local authorities to determine capacity limits and requirements around face coverings and certification.
Cartmel racing manager Anthea Morshead said she was delighted by Monday’s news but that the details were still being worked through.
Beverley Racecourse in East Yorkshire is staging an evening meeting on the July 19.
It has been operating at a limit of 3,500 and is planning to admit around 7,500 for the remainder of its summer 2021 meetings – still some way short of capacity.
“We can increase our capacity across the racecourse but we’re going to take a cautious approach this season,” the clerk of the course, Sarah Iggulden, said.
“We feel that we have got a responsibility to racegoers and our own staff. We want to take a slightly cautious approach and ensure that there’s a little more room than would normally be the case.”
Iggulden said that on Ladies’ Day on August 11 they would typically expect, prior to the pandemic, a crowd of around 11,000.
On face coverings, Iggulden said: “We’re very conscious that as a venue that’s hosting mass gatherings we do need to take precautions, and so it’s likely that we would be encouraging people to wear face mask – but it would be encouragement rather than enforcement.”