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He was one of the players involved in the creation of the breakaway WDC (later PDC) after darts' split in 1992.

Wolfie said: "It is so very, very sad to hear that my good friend and colleague has passed away".

I was a nipper, my aunt used to play darts there. "He was the governor".

"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". His first title, a 5-3 defeat of Bobby George, marked the start of his dynasty.

He finished in fourth place, behind victor Brooks.

He was crowned as the world's best on five occasions in an outstanding six-year period between 1980 and 1986, while he also won five masters titles.

He retired from competitive darts in 2007 and worked as a commentator and pundit on Sky Sports darts coverage. He later apologised for his remarks.

PDC chairman Barry Hearn led the tributes to the man who went by the nickname of the Crafty Cockney.

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He told BBC Sport: "It's just unbelievable".

"Really sad to hear about Eric Bristow thoughts are with his family x", Corrie's Helen Flanagan wrote, while Conservative politician Nadine Dorries added: "I am so utterly shocked and saddened that my jungle buddie @ericbristow has died so suddenly this evening".

Bristow acted as mentor for Taylor, who beat the "Crafty Cockney" to win his first world crown in 1990 before going on to become the greatest player in the game.

"We often talk about the absence of characters in sport but Eric Bristow was a character with a capital "c".

Ant, who hit headlines recently after he was charged with drink driving, recreated the moment Eric read out details of a Bushtucker trial to campmates.

'Eric was never afraid of controversy, but he spoke as he found it and was honest and straightforward which is what people admired about him.

News of his death sparked a rendition of "There's only one Eric Bristow" by fans as Peter Wright and Daryl Gurney stopped playing after breaking down in tears.

Having spent most of his 20s as the world's number one player, Bristow went on to endure a long battle with dartitis - the game's equivalent of golf's "yips" - which brought an inability to release the arrow.