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Last Updated: Monday, 5 January, 2004, 07:40 GMT
Q&A: Darts referee Martin Fitzmaurice

Martin Fitzmaurice
Referee and 'The voice of Darts'

What is your favourite memory of the World Darts Championship at the Lakeside?

It would have to be the nine-darter by Paul Lim in 1990. I was fortunate enough to be referee for that match. It's the first and only time a nine-dart finish has been thrown at the Lakeside.

No-one else can claim to have been the referee. I still wear my same grey suit sometimes.

It must have been a memorable occasion...

Well, it also gave me nightmares. You have little room to manoeuvre up there, and when he hit the final treble 20, it covered double 12, so I couldn't see it directly.

Hopefully, one day darts will get into the Olympics
I was hoping he doesn't hit 57, then double 12, but he went and hit 57.

There was no way in the world, with 52,000 riding on one dart, that I was going to move.

So he threw it, the crowd went into bedlam, and I called: "Game, shot..." And it was only then that I checked it was in.

At 2 o'clock in the morning, I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking: 'What if it hadn't gone in?'

What do you say to sceptics who suggest darts isn't a sport?

People who are sceptical have never been to the Lakeside or seen a major darts tournament.

They see the drinking, smoking, the cloth-cap image, but it's not like that at professional level.

In some countries, it's recognised as a sport by the government.

Here, I think it's just snobbery. We have the world champion men's and women's teams. They came home to a cat and dog, while the rugby players are on a different planet.

Hopefully, one day darts will get into the Olympics. I don't think we'll reach the situation where you get million-pound tournaments, but there is scope for a great deal of improvement.

I'm also chief executive of the Players' Association, and we try to explain to players that they have to act like professionals.

Who makes up the players' nicknames?

I do get involved. It's all part and parcel of it.

I gave Co Stompe the nickname Matchstick after he walked into the hospitality room wearing a khaki raincoat and a red woolly hat. He looked like a Swan Vestas match.

The same goes for the women - everyone knows Mieke de Boer as Bambi.

I remember she was 12 years of age, and this little blonde girl came bouncing on stage. I thought she looked like a little Bambi.

The following day, in front of 2,500 people, up went a 4ft high banner with Bambi on it, and someone even threw a little toy Bambi on the stage.

Who is your favourite ever player?

It would have to be Bobby George, who helped me so much when I went full-time.

Bob is probably the greatest player the sport has ever seen, but he doesn't realise how good he was. Even with all the razzamatazz, he lacked self-confidence.

And your tip to win the 2004 tournament?

Raymond Barneveld

Raymond Barneveld. In the last 18 months, Barney has probably produced the best darts I've seen in my life.

He's so relaxed now - he's a much better player than when he won his first two Embassy titles. Whoever beats Raymond will win this.

Do you take any interest in the PDC tournament at Purfleet?

None at all. There's a lot of politics that goes on, and a lot of black propaganda. All we want to do is make our system the best possible for a player.

It made me ill a few years ago - I got hepatitis and lost five stone through illness. I had poison pen letters, and it was affecting my family.

I suppose it goes with the territory - being the frontman for the place, you are there to be shot at. But we've had some great fun.

How do you feel before the Lakeside tournament?

Excited. I don't get nervous. This is my 19th tournament, and there is nowhere in the world to compare with walking onto that stage and waiting for the intro music.

The crowd here are brilliant, and it's a lovely way to earn a living.

  • Martin Fitzmaurice was talking to Frank Keogh

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