The sport’s traditional request for ‘the very best of order, please’ fell on deaf ears as the incredible disturbance halted play between reigning world number one Michael van Gerwen and ‘Wizard of Oz’ Simon Whitlock in the final of the high-profile Darts Invitational Challenge at the Etihad Stadium.
Around 40 police officers were summoned to restore calm after security guards at the Etihad were overwhelmed by the chaotic scenes. The violence apparently began after a group of boisterous fans tried to build a pyramid of chairs during Saturday night’s final. Trouble soon escalated as chairs and tables were hurled towards a growing pile of furniture in the middle of the audience.
Three fans were injured as audience members – many of them wearing fancy dress – began fighting and body-slamming each other. Batman’s sidekick, Robin, was spotted grappling with an English knight – he must love a good game of arrows – whilst a gang of Oompa Loompas threw furniture around the arena. Fred Flintstone was also in attendance.
Crowd member Andew Portbury told ABC News: “There were entire rows basically demolished – chairs being put on piles and tables starting to get involved. People were diving on top of the tables and it just became this huge mess very, very quickly. I was really shocked; I went to see some of the best darts players in the world do their thing and people just didn’t respect they were seeing a high level of skill on display.”
Van Gerwen ran out the winner when play eventually resumed amid the wreckage after a 20-minute delay. The 25-year-old Dutchman – PDC world champion in 2014 – stormed back from 5-1 and 8-4 down against his Aussie opponent to clinch a thrilling 9-8 victory which was entirely overshadowed by the riot.
Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews described the incident as “very ugly” and said the authorities would consider whether to permit similar tournaments in the future. “This is unacceptable behaviour. We won’t stand for it,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.
Police are examining footage of the disturbance and will consider whether to press charges. An Etihad Stadium spokesman said the venue served only mid-strength beer and had closed the bar as soon as the violence erupted. Good thinking, Batman…