The world of darts is in mourning after five-time world champion Eric Bristow passed away at the age of 60 on Thursday evening.
Bristow was at the Premier League Judgement Night event in Liverpool when he suffered a heart attack, and news of his death broke during the evening’s final match between Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright.
The crowd at the Echo Arena broke into a rousing rendition of ‘There’s only one Eric Bristow’ as news of his passing filtered through, and a visibly emotional Peter Wright left the stage in tears after his clash against ‘Super Chin’.
Bristow was arguably darts’ first real superstar; winning five World Championship titles between 1980 and 1986. He also claimed five World Masters titles during an astonishing career, and remarkably recovered from dartitis to regain his world number one ranking in 1990.
‘The Crafty Cockney’ played an instrumental role in the forming of the PDC back in 1993, as he was one of 16 players who broke away from the British Darts Organisation. Bristow was inducted into the PDC Hall of Fame alongside his great rival John Lowe in 2005 and retired from professional competition in 2007.
Nevertheless, he remained an ever-popular figure on the exhibition circuit and also featured prominently on Sky Sports’ coverage as a pundit and spotter between 2007-2016, whilst also appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ in 2012.
Bristow, originally born in East London, later relocated to Staffordshire and played a key role in the development and emergence of 16-time world champion Phil Taylor. He mentored and sponsored ‘The Power’ during the early stages of his career, and the pair met in the 1990 World Championship final, in which Taylor triumphed.
The five-time world champion was a maverick but also an incredible personality, and legendary commentator Sid Waddell famously once said of Bristow: “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer….Bristow’s only 27.”
It’s been a very sad period for the darting community of late. Bullseye host Jim Bowen died at the age of 80 on March 14th, whilst former PDC Master of Ceremonies Phil Jones passed away aged 71 on March 23rd.
PDC Chairman Barry Hearn led the tributes to Bristow, stating: “Eric will always be a legend in the world of darts and British sport. He was a tremendous player and a huge character and even after his retirement fans would travel for miles to meet him and see him play.
“Eric was never afraid of controversy, but he spoke as he found and was honest and straightforward which is what people admired about him. The PDC, and the sport of darts, will miss him.”
Keith Deller, who defeated Bristow in an unforgettable 1983 World Championship final, was on spotting duty for Sky Sports in Liverpool. Speaking to Sky Sports’ Dave Clark, he paid a touching tribute to his close friend, admitting that Eric’s passing had left him ‘devastated’.
“What he’s done for our game; if it wasn’t for Eric, nobody would be here tonight. It’s a massive loss to our sport. When you look at the big stars we’ve had in Britain; Eric Bristow would be right at the top.
“We had so many great memories and it’s a really sad night tonight; it’s very sad for me because he’s been one of my best friends I’ve ever had in my life and I’m sadly going to miss him, I really am,” Deller added.
Elsewhere, three-time world champion John Lowe took to social media and claimed he had “lost a part of my life tonight,” whilst 1988 world champion Bob Anderson, who had Bristow as a best man at his wedding, admitted that he was ‘unable to contain his tears’.
Thousands of tributes poured in from darts fans paying their respects to a darting legend, and many current and former players also paid tribute to a true one-off; who has made an invaluable contribution in making darts the wonderful sport it is today. Rest in peace Eric Bristow….
Photo Credits: Lawrence Lustig/PDC