Preventing protesters disrupting Open not a new challenge, say organisers

Preventing protesters disrupting Open not a new challenge, say organisers

Open organisers admit it will be “challenging” to prevent protesters disrupting this year’s championship at Royal Liverpool but have expressed confidence in their “robust” security arrangements.

A man wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ T-shirt interrupted the World Snooker Championship match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry on Monday evening by jumping on to one of the tables and tipping orange powder over the cloth.

A woman was prevented from executing a similar stunt on the other table after being tackled by referee Olivier Marteel.

A 'Just Stop Oil' protester disrupted the World Snooker Championship
A ‘Just Stop Oil’ protester disrupted the World Snooker Championship (Mike Egerton/PA).

A 25-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and subsequently bailed by South Yorkshire Police until June 15.

It was the second time in three days that a major domestic sporting event had been disrupted after 118 people were arrested at Aintree on Saturday as they tried to scale the perimeter fence at the Grand National.

Mike Woodcock, director of corporate communications for the R&A, said: “Every year security is a big priority for us. Every year we are looking to see what the situation is and assess the potential issues.

“It’s certainly challenging but we have dealt with protests before. It’s not new. We are tapped into all of the intelligence. We will do everything we can to try to prevent it.

“We are planning for this year’s championship and if there are any situations we need to adapt to, we will.

“We are pretty confident the arrangements we have are robust. It’s all about the agencies we work with and the advice and guidance that we’re getting and I think we’re getting the best possible advice.”

Championships director Rhodri Price said the R&A would continue to engage with protest groups ahead of the 151st Open from July 20-23, which is set to attract 260,000 spectators – a record for an Open outside of St Andrews.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in the last couple of weeks,” said Price, who said the R&A has the capacity to search all bags being brought into the course.

“It’s not something we are reactive to, we are very pro-active. We have all of the contingency planning, a monthly security group, intelligence cells that gather all this information.

“In fact they engage with all the protest groups to try to make sure we can provide for them if they were to attend.

Protesters disrupted the Grand National on Saturday
Protesters disrupted the Grand National on Saturday (Tim Goode/PA).

“We’ve had several in the past that we were able to accommodate so that they can get their message across in a controlled environment.”

The 150th Open attracted a record 290,000 fans to St Andrews, surpassing the previous high mark of 239,000 set at the same venue in 2000.

The tournament also generated over £300 million in economic benefit for Scotland according to an independent study commissioned by the R&A, VisitScotland and Fife Council.