Darts legend Eric Bristow has died at the age of 60 following a heart attack on Thursday evening.
The ‘Crafty Cockney’ had been at a promotional event in Liverpool earlier in the afternoon, but passed away shortly afterwards.
The Professional Darts Corporation announced his passing during Thursday night’s Premier League fixture in Liverpool, at which point the players on stage – Peter Wright and Daryl Gurney – both broke down in tears.
Immediately after the news was announced, those in attendance at the Echo Arena burst into a rendition of “There’s only one Eric Bristow.”
His agent told The Daily Mirror: “It’s devastating news for the whole family. This has come as a massive shock and we would appreciate some privacy at this time.
“This is a huge loss to the sporting world and the world of darts. He is a legendary character.”
The 1983 world champion Keith Deller, who claimed his title by defeating Bristow in the final said on Thursday: “I’m devastated, me and Eric were together all the time.
“What he’s done for our game, tonight, if it wasn’t for Eric, no one would be here tonight.”
Bristow, was a five-time BDO world champion – winning his first title in 1980 at the age of 23.
He was awarded an MBE for services to sport in 1989 and inducted into the Professional Darts Corporation hall of fame in 2005.
A statement released by the PDC said: “The Professional Darts Corporation is deeply saddened to announce that five-time World Champion Eric Bristow MBE passed away on Thursday evening following a heart attack.
“Arguably the sport’s first superstar player, Bristow, 60, was World Champion five times between 1980-1986 and also won five World Masters titles during an outstanding career.
“Bristow was one of the founder players when the PDC (then World Darts Council) was formed in 1993 as the sport’s leading stars broke away from the British Darts Organisation.
“The 60-year-old was inducted into the PDC Hall of Fame in 2005 alongside great rival John Lowe, and since retiring from competition at the end of 2007 remained a popular figure on the exhibition circuit.
“Bristow also worked as a TV pundit and spotter for Sky Sports, was awarded the MBE for his services to sport in 1989 and appeared on ITV’s “I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here” in 2012.”
East Londoner Bristow was widely regaled as one of the sport’s first bona-fide superstars, and after relocating to Staffordshire played a major role in the development of 16-time world champion Phil Taylor.
PDC Chairman Barry Hearn led the tributes to Bristow following the announcement of his death.
“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.”
Bristow had worked for Sky Sports after stepping down from the oche, but lost his role after his comments on the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked football.
After a growing number of former players had made allegations of child sex abuse, Bristow took to social media to question why victims had not ‘sorted out’ abusers “when they got older and fitter”.
He later apologised, describing himself as a “bull in a China shop” adding he “appreciated my wording was wrong and offended many people.”
Two-time world champion Dennis Priestley wrote on Twitter: “Absolutely devastated to be told earlier that my good friend Eric Bristow has passed away.
“We shared some great times together and I’m so saddened that we won’t get to share anymore. Rest in peace old friend.”