Barry Hearn says being awarded an OBE for services to sport is ‘a great honour’

Barry Hearn, credited with playing a big part in the commercial success of
darts and snooker, says being awarded an OBE for his services to sport is “a great honour”.

The 72-year-old from Chelmsford in Essex is the chairman of Matchroom Sport, a company which owns, produces and promotes 12 sports.

He has been involved in snooker since the 1970s, initially as manager of Steve Davis who went on to dominate the sport throughout the 1980s.

Hearn formed the Matchroom stable of players, which also included stars Jimmy White, Dennis Taylor, Willie Thorne, Cliff Thorburn, Neal Foulds, Tony Meo and Terry Griffiths.

He became chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation in 2001 and has overseen an explosion in interest in the sport and helped boost prize money to record levels.

I’m thrilled to receive the O B E in the New Years honours. Thanks for all your kind remarks and a special thanks to all the teams at Matchroom and the thousands of sportsmen and women I’ve worked with over the years that made this award possible. I’m chuffed to bits !!

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“It’s right up there in the top three, I suppose. If I look back; Steve Davis winning the World Snooker Championship in 1981 was massive for me. Chris Eubank beating Nigel Benn in 1990 was massive for me, Phil Taylor and the job that he did being the greatest darts player the world has ever seen and taking a sport like darts from a pub game to a global phenomenon. I look at the darts, taking place behind closed doors, it’s very special. It’s doing enormous business all over the world and it’s changing lives, which sport does.”

Where does putting on the World Darts in 2020 rank?

“It sounds great! It takes a lot to shock me… and I was really happily surprised with that. I look on it as a great honour and the end of a bad year, has started off very well. We’ll have 2021 special,” Hearn told Sky Sports’ Dharmesh Sheth.

“I’ve been in this business for 45 years, I’ve achieved a reasonable amount, I hope, so I suppose it shouldn’t have been too unexpected but it’s still nice to get it. We all like a slap on the back and to be told: ‘Well Done’ and I’m no different.

“We’ve been flat out trying to keep sport going and this battle against COVID. It wasn’t impossible to keep it (to myself).

“Obviously, I told my wife and my family, we had a little family celebration and then we just did what we always do, rolled up our sleeves and got back to work.”

Matchroom Sport was founded in 1982 and its portfolio of athletes and sports has continued to grow. His son Eddie is the group managing director of Matchroom and his daughter Katie oversees its programming division.

Hearn is also the president of League Two football club Leyton Orient.

Very proud of my old man @BarryHearn who has been awarded an OBE for services to sport in the Queens honours list. He has dedicated his life to creating entertainment through sport and giving athletes the opportunities and platforms to succeed..well deserved!

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He has encountered some health issues in 2020, suffering what was described as a minor heart attack in April and then testing positive for coronavirus in October, just days after son Eddie also tested positive.

“We’ve had problems in this industry, we’ve had recessions, trade problems and currency problems, but nothing of the size of COVID. It’s been absolutely disastrous for sport, across a whole range,” said Hearn.

“Good luck to everybody where we’ve carried on, we’ve been resilient and refused to just roll over… the players, the staff and all of the people behind sport in this country deserve a round of applause in the same way that the NHS staff do because the NHS are doing a brilliant frontline job and I honestly believe that the mental health of the country is so improved by watching and playing sport. I think that it’s an essential part of our country.

“I had COVID a couple of months after a heart attack. I had a really horrible 2020 but it’s really finishing on a high note.”

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He continued: “I’m looking forward, like everybody. I’m optimistic for the future. I believe that we can be resilient, get through this and I’m motivated, as much as I was 45 years ago when I started staging my first professional sporting event.

“I’m more excited about the future than ever. My cup is always half full, and I can’t wait to get back to normal as soon as possible.”

You won’t miss a dart thanks to the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel all the way until January 4 with every session from the World Darts Championship, including the final on Sunday, January 3. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts

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