‘I was ref for Gerwyn Price’s headphones stunt – the size of them surprised me’

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    With almost 30 years as a top darts referee, Russ Bray thought he had seen it all – then Gerwyn Price emerged from a break at the World Championship wearing a massive pair of headphones.

    After the greatest leg in the sport’s history – "I can’t spake" and all that – and Michael Smith lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy for the first time, Price donning heavy-duty head gear was the abiding memory of the 2023 tournament. The abuse the Ice Man had been getting from the Ally Pally crowd had been one of the tournament’s talking points and there were murmurings that he was planning to take action.

    He did just that in his quarter-final against German giant Gabriel Clemens, stunning the darting world and forcing a rule change which means there will be no repeat at this year’s tournament. The stunt didn’t work as Price ditched them after a set and went on to lose 5-1. Bray, regarded by many as the ‘Voice of Darts’, was on stage that night and was taken aback by what transpired.

    READ MORE: Voice of Darts Russ Bray reveals pet hate ahead of World Darts Championship swansong

    READ MORE: Gerwyn Price's ear defenders banned from Ally Pally 12 months after headphone antics

    “It was different!” Bray, who is stepping down as a full-time referee after the tournament, tells Daily Star Sport. “I got forewarned by the tournament director that Gerwyn was going to have ear protectors in for the noise and the booing.

    “I thought it would be like that Merv King had, just earplugs. When he came out with the earphone-looking things, it was a little bit of a surprise.”

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    Price threatened to never play in the tournament again after that episode. While he has returned for the 2024 showpiece, beginning his campaign against Connor Scutt on Monday night, he isn't a fan of playing at Ally Pally and would even welcome a change of venue for the Worlds.

    It must be said, for the most part, the Welshman has been given an easier ride by fans this year. It remains to be seen whether that will be the case at this tournament, but Bray reckons the former rugby professional deserves immense respect from punters.

    “It’s a shame because he’s an amazing darts player,” adds Bray. “And he is a lovely, lovely man. He’s a real family man, a really lovely fella. On the oche, he’s a winner. You’ve got to show your passion and wear your heart on your sleeve, I’m all up for that.

    “That [abuse from the crowd] came from the altercation he had with Gary Anderson all those years ago [at the 2018 Grand Slam when the pair clashed on stage]. It’s a hard thing to shift once you’ve had it.

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    “Peter Manley had it, but he turned it round and became a pantomime villain. But it is getting better for him. You get the odd idiot who will boo. But, in the main, the crowd are warming to him.

    “And he’s a great guy to call for because he hits virtually everything he goes for – and it must be great from the crowd’s perspective to see a master at his craft.”

    • Gerwyn Price
    • Darts

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