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Hearn awaits clarification on closed-doors events in move for live TV content

Matchroom Sport’s Barry Hearn is continuing to look at ways to stage live sports events behind closed doors despite the UK being in a state of ‘lockdown’ due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Hearn is looking for clarification from the UK government over new restrictions announced on Monday to tackle the spread of the pandemic. These included the limitation on travelling to and from work “only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home”.

Broadcasters worldwide remain in dire need of live sport to fill their schedules and try and retain touchpoints with viewers.

Hearn told the Unofficial Partner podcast: “I’m looking at ways of creating behind-closed-doors events subject to government rules and if I’m allowed to do that.

“If I am allowed to do it then I can then tick another box which is something on TV screens around the world which is live and entertaining although obviously lacking the atmosphere that most of my events have.

“I still need clarification on whether I’m allowed to do that and if I am then I’ll be ready to rumble within two weeks.”

Darts and snooker would particularly lend themselves to behind-closed-doors events, Hearn said, with a limited number of people present and the two-metre rule being exercised.

Speaking earlier this month – and before the lockdown measures were announced – the Matchroom Sport founder and chairman said that he was looking to try and keep events going and suggested that this year’s World Snooker Championships could be played in front of empty seats.

However, the event, which was due to run from April 18 to May 4 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, was postponed just days later and World Snooker has said it intends to host the event on alternative dates in July or August.

Given the loss of live sport from broadcasters’ schedules, Matchroom Sport, like other agencies, has been switching its attention to the sale of archive rights.

Archive rights to between 700 to 1,000 hours of footage are being distributed, according to Hearn.

He remarked: “We said: ‘Look this is available. We’re not going to kill you because we know you’re in a really tough position.’”

On Matchroom Sport’s financial outlook amidst the fallout from the coronavirus crisis, Hearn said that the business is “well controlled” and has reserves.

He added: “Matchroom Sport as a company has had year-on-year profit growth for the last 31 years. So we’re fairly protected in today’s world.”