Alexandra Palace is now being ‘used properly’, says sports promoter Barry Hearn
Barry Hearn says Alexandra Palace has “sadly been underused over the years” but that it is now being “used properly” as the Muswell Hill venue hosts a string of major sporting events at the start of 2014.
The Ladbrokes World Darts Championships came to an end late on New Years Day, with Dutchman Michael van Gerwen being crowned champion after 16 days of competition, which saw 50,000 people visiting the venue.
Hearn is the chairman of Matchroom Sports, who have promoted the event – in addition to other sporting spectacles at Ally Pally. The World Ping Pong Championships will take place this weekend and, later in the month, the Masters snooker tournament will also be held in north London.
Hearn says the arena holds special memories for him, and that he is delighted to see so many people coming through its doors.
“I go back a long way with this building,” said the 65-year-old. “When I was 21 years old I took my final accountants exam here and I walked up that hill every day. I had broken my leg playing football so I had to come up on crutches for the first three days.
“It’s nice for me as an individual to revisit my youth and to remember good feelings. We have created some good events here and everyone’s a winner - people get great value for money and The People’s Palace’ is used properly.
“Ally Pally is a great venue that has sadly been underused over the years but, with the new management that is in place now, they’ve seen the opportunity and it’s good business. We know we’re going to get a crowd and they know they’re going to get a crowd.
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“Bringing the World Darts Championship to Alexandra Palace was a bit special. Going back between 1963 and 1977 the News of the World Championships were staged here.
“It was actually then the venue for darts, so all we have really done is look back through the history books and copied it.
Hearn added: “Alexandra Palace has become a little bit of a Matchroom home at the moment. You can’t say how long it’s going to last but at the moment we are working as a very good partnership. We love this arena, it’s a lovely historic building in London and it does seem to create a great atmosphere.
“The World Darts Championship is here for the next few years, guaranteed. This weekend we start the World Ping Pong Championships, which is a new event but it’s growing and looks as if it could get bigger and bigger - and then of course we have the Masters snooker. We have also hosted some Prizefighter boxing events here as well.”