It's all over for darts and boxing could be next. Tuesday Morning Quarterback runs the slide rule over the impending doom facing ring girls.
Grim news for boxing fans who really don’t like the sport but tune in anyway for the thrill of seeing a woman in a bikini holding a sandwich board with a number on it.
That’s right: ring girls are on the way out.
It’s possible, even, that the first major event not to feature mild titillation during the interludes could be Joseph Parker v Anthony Joshua.
We know this because the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) has just canned the exploitation of cans as part of its entertainment package.
No longer will fat men who curiously look like they’ve spent a good chunk of their lives in public houses exercising only their elbows be accompanied to the biggest stages in darts by women in cocktail dresses who look like they’ve just come from a page three shoot – via a quick spot of enhancement surgery in Thailand.
The end of the walk-on girls in darts comes at the directive of British sports promoter Barry Hearn, the father of Eddie Hearn.
Wee Eddie now manages the boxing side of the family business. So, you don’t have to be a genius to put two and two together to figure out that matching pairs might be on the way out in big time boxing, too.
What does this mean?
In darts, it means viewers will be denied one of the most hilariously incongruous scenes in world sport, if not just the world. It’s impossible not to watch the likes of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor or Raymond van Barneveld shuffle their ample 50-something frames to the stage looking for all the world like they are a dad at a gypsy wedding accompanying their daughters down the aisle without experiencing mirth.
For this column, it’s a scene impossible to watch without the words of the Harry Enfield character ‘Considerably Richer Than You’ leaping to mind, the ones when he introduces his wife: “I’m a self-made man and this is my man-made woman.”
Van Barneveld, for one, isn’t happy. The Dutchman is among those promoting a petition reportedly already signed by 9000 people aiming to ‘save’ the walk-on girls.
Given the compelling entertainment on offer and the fact the girls add precisely nothing to either the contest or its smooth operation, it seems like darts will survive.
But what about boxing, where the ring girls actually serve a purpose – that being informing people too intoxicated or brain damaged to count to 12 which round is coming up?
It’s a service that will still need to be performed. Are we edging towards equality, where rounds alternate between buxom young ladies and buff fellas with steroid-enhanced chests of their own.
Or will we catapult wholeheartedly towards full equality – and give fat people and old people and people with terrible dress sense a round each as well?
Newton’s third law insists there will be a price to pay for axing a longstanding but increasingly antiquated tradition. Formula 1 is navel-scratching about what to do with the flat-bellied lasses who toil away as ‘grid girls’, and it is hard to believe professional motor cycling’s ‘brolly dollies’ aren’t also now under threat.
Sarah Beverly Jones, a regular on the Matchroom circuit, may well have spoken for a good few of the soon-to-be disenfranchised when she tweeted: “If I could make a difference, it would be investing in those issues that upset me deeply, such as disabilities in children, animal abuse, homelessness. I wouldn’t waste my day campaigning to put promo models out of work!! That’s exactly where we are going wrong in this world!”
One (yet to be fully formed) answer has been offered by Formula 1 team boss Ross Brawn
"We're 100 percent committed to looking into grid girls and making them a more relevant part of the competition rather than just holding a board and standing next to a car,” Brawn told Marketing Week.
"We haven't quite cracked what this will look like, but we've recognised we need to become more progressive there."
Of course, in New Zealand we’re way ahead of the curve. Professional boxing promoters here long ago dispensed with having pretty women simply parading boards with numbers on them, instead chucking them into the ring to punch each other around a bit as warm-up acts for the real thing.
As undoubtedly the worst ‘sporting’ contest ever staged, Bella Henry’s ‘fight’ against ‘Nasty’ Naz Khanjani seemed utterly indefensible at the time.
But, now, with a bit of revisionist thinking, it’s possible to see it as both a bold, progressive step into the future and a positive move in the protection of labour rights for glamorous women whose stock and trade is their physical appearance.
All eyes, then, on Cardiff on March 31. Your move, Matchroom Boxing.