Some darts players are struggling after the shutdown says Bradford’s Cullen

YORKSHIRE’S TOP-RANKED darts ace, Joe Cullen , says he fears for players who can’t make a living during the coronavirus shutdown and believes some major events will inevitably have to be scrapped.

LADBROKES UK OPEN 2020 BUTLINS RESORT, MINEHEAD, PIC;LAWRENCE LUSTIG ROUND 5 JONNY CLAYTON V JOE CULLEN JOECULLEN IN ACTION

Competition in the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) has been on hold since a Players’ Championship in Barnsley on March 15, leaving players without an income.

“It’s the same as any other job, if you can’t work you don’t get paid,” said Cullen who is ranked number 16 in the world.

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“It is as simple as that. I am pretty lucky because I am in the top-16 in the world and the money’s pretty good there.

Tough times: Joe Cullen, above and left, says lower-ranked darts players will struggle during the shutdown as they are self-employed and have no income coming in. He also thinks more tournaments will be cancelled due to the coronavirus. Picture: PA

“We’ve got a bit set aside so we will manage, but plenty of the other boys further down the rankings are struggling.”

Though Cullen, from Bradford and known as Rockstar, reached the last 32 of the UK Open earlier this month, he admitted his form as far as this year has been “probably not too great”.

He said: “I have done all right in a few tournaments, but not as well as I wanted.

“The last time we played, in Barnsley at the pro’ tour, it was strange, the atmosphere wasn’t the same.

“You could tell something big was about to happen.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated how big or thought it would escalate to where we are now, but it was a strange atmosphere around the place.

“The darts was secondary, all the talk was about what’s going on.

“Looking back now, I think it possibly should have been called off.

“There were 128 players and one guest each as well, plus staff, so there was the best part of 300 people in one room.

“You come into contact with people a lot and we were within the recommended two-metre distance as well.”

April’s Premier League night in Sheffield has been put back to July 2 and the tournament’s visit to Leeds, scheduled for May, is also likely to be delayed.

Other major events could also have to be rearranged and Cullen admitted the calendar is in disarray.

He queried: “What do you do with the rankings?

“The way the rankings work, it is a two-year system so you are defending the money you essentially won two years ago.

“If we are not able to defend the money, what do you do?

“Do you freeze the rankings?

“This is only my opinion, but I don’t see how the Premier League can be completed.

“By the time we get back playing, at a guess I’d say about August/September time, there’s so much to fit in.

“There’s the Matchplay, pro’ tours, something like six European tours between now and then – and that’s without the Premier League – so I think come September, October, November there will be a lot of pro’ tours moved midweek, maybe, just to get the season done. But as far as the big tournaments go, I just can’t see how they are going to fit them all in.”

Cullen’s wife works in the NHS so there is a wage coming in and he conceded: “I am one of the lucky ones, we will be able to get through this period, but there’s plenty who aren’t as fortunate as us.”

One of the, few, positives from a grim situation is Cullen and his fellow professionals are getting plenty of time to practice, which is so crucial for any top player.

Most darts stars like to practice with a partner, to add a competitive edge and alleviate the boredom.

“Government guidelines make that difficult, but Cullen said: “I like to practice alone, whether the season’s on or off.

“With the kids being off school I left it alone for a week, I think I have jet-washed everything in site and the garden’s spotless. It has been a break from the darts and then I’ll get back into the swing of things practice-wise, but you don’t get paid for practicing.

“It is nice to be at home, because we are away a lot, but when it’s taken out of your hands like this it is a bit different to having the odd weekend off.

“I am sure every player would love to get back to playing as soon as possible.”