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PDC Darts: World Matchplay to be held in Milton Keynes behind closed doors
Watch coverage of the World Matchplay on Sky Sports - all nine days from the Marshall Arena live, starting on Saturday July 18
Last Updated: 01/07/20 4:34pm
For the first time in its history, the World Matchplay will not be held at Blackpool's Winter Gardens, but will go behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.
Darts has been paused as the coronavirus pandemic has halted much of world sport, but with the action beginning to filter back, the PDC has confirmed the next step in its return.
There had been a hope that the prestigious Matchplay, the year's second-biggest tournament, could go ahead in front of a small crowd, in a controlled environment in Blackpool at the event's spiritual home.
However, after all avenues were explored with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Blackpool Council, the Winter Gardens and other stakeholders that has been deemed not possible and the protected, enclosed facilities at the Marshall Arena will house the tournament.
It has already held two snooker events - the Championship League and the Tour Championship - and will now host darts for 14 days of competitive action this month, with the Summer Series also set for the venue.
Matchplay was first played in 1994 when American Larry Butler became the first of just eight players to win the title. The trophy is named after the legendary Phil Taylor who won the tournament 16 times.
"This is an unprecedented step for us to take and this tough decision has been made only after exhausting all possible options in a bid to stage the Betfred World Matchplay with a limited crowd in Blackpool," said PDC chief executive Matt Porter.
"We thank the DCMS for their co-operation throughout the process and also the Winter Gardens and Blackpool Council, who remained committed to hosting the event throughout the process.
"Whilst this will be disappointing for the thousands of fans who had planned to watch the 2020 Betfred World Matchplay live in Blackpool, we will be offering those fans the chance to defer their tickets to 2021, when the tournament will return to its spiritual home."
The draw for the tournament will take place on Sunday July 12, after the last of five days of competition of the Summer Series, five Players Championship events held behind closed doors at the same venue from July 8-12 and that will be the last chance to qualify for the Matchplay.
It will also represent a chance for the PDC to assess the conditions at the Marshall Arena ahead of nine days of action, which you can follow on Sky Sports from Saturday July 18, through until the final on Sunday July 26.
The six-week PDC Home Tour kept players active in non-competitive action during the suspension but the return of ranked events, and now the sport's second 'major' signal a resumption in play having been put on hold after Night Six of the Premier League in March.
Darts returns to Sky Sports in July, with nine days of coverage from the World Matchplay getting underway on Saturday, July 16, and every day until the final on Sunday, July 24.