Just Stop Oil Protesters Disrupt World Snooker Championship With Orange Powder

A male protester let off the powder on one of the tables
20:14, 17 Apr 2023

The Crucible was sensationally hit by ‘Just Stop Oil’ environmental protesters last night amid unprecedented scenes at the World Championships.

Two activists leapt out of the crowd at 7.15pm and invaded the arena interrupting the first-round matches in Sheffield between Rob Milkins and Joe Perry, and Mark Allen against Fan Zhengyi.

A male protester, wearing a white T-shirt bearing the organisation’s slogan, managed to climb onto the table of the Milkins/Perry match.

And he threw bright orange powder all over the green baize instantly stopping play, before being overpowered and removed by security staff.

On the other table a female protester was prevented at the last minute from doing exactly the same in the Allen/Fan by referee Olivier Marteel.

The sell-out crowd of around 980 angrily started booing the protesters as they were summarily taken away via a side exit.

Tournament director Mike Ganley arrived on the scene and ushered Perry and Milkins from the affected Table One back to their dressing rooms – as Allen and Fan also departed the arena.

And a delicate clean-up operation immediately began after assessment of the damage, with officials hoping that hoovering up the powder would not leave the affected table too damaged to continue. In the end, that proved not to be the case.

MC Rob Walker, later to assist in the ultimately futile clean-up operation as the hoovers arrived, was commentating on the Milkins/Perry match when the incident took place.

He mustered at the time: “Incredible scenes at the Crucible. Everyone trying to enjoy the snooker, and I have never seen anything like this in 25 years of watching or working at this theatre.

“We will now have a significant delay, as Joe Perry and Rob Milkins manage to see the funny side.”

Back in the studio, presenter Rishi Persad said: “History created at the Crucible, though not the sort of history we would like. But hopefully it looks like no one is hurt.

“Protesters causing trouble at the World Championship is not something we predicted, but these things are happening with increasing regularity. The players are all leaving the arena.”

Seven-time world champion and BBC pundit Stephen Hendry said: “That was quite scary, actually. You wonder what will happen now.

“Will they get the hoovers out? It caught us all by surprise, we were just watching it there. For me straight away you wonder is the table recoverable. Can it just be brushed off or hoovered up?”

Play actually resumed on Table Two around 7.55pm with Allen and Fan resuming play. But it was decided that no further play on Table One would be possible without re-clothing that would take place over night.

The Crucible has previously been hit by a Fathers for Justice protest in 2005, with on that occasion individuals managing to climb onto the roof of the building to brandish banners.

And the 2008 final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter was interrupted by a streaker.

The incident follows the delay to the Grand National at the weekend after animal rights activists invaded the course at Aintree.

A statement from Just Stop Oil on their Twitter feed read: New Oil and Gas will Snooker Us.

“At around 7.20pm two Just Stop Oil supporters have disrupted the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield – interrupting play.

“The pair proceeded to cover the tables in orange powder paint [in fact only one] before being removed by security and arrested.

“They are demanding that the government immediately stop all new fossil fuel projects and are calling on UK sporting institution to step into civil resistance against the government’s genocidal policies.”

The Milkins v Perry match was just starting and stood at 0-0, 11 points to 4 to Milkins at the time of the protest – while Allen had just resumed 6-3 up against Fan after the first session. It has now been confirmed that the Milkins v Perry match will not resumed tonight and will be rescheduled as the table needs re-clothing. 

Mark Allen eventually moved into the second round with a 10-5 win over Fan Zhengyi on the table that did see a full session’s play last night.

And the Northern Irishman, a serious contender for a first world title this year after three other successes this season, gave his reaction to the evening’s events.

World No3 Allen, 37, thanked referee Olivier Marteel at the end for his quick reactions in preventing the second protester from ruining his table, and delaying the finale until another day.

He said: “I think I was the last person to realise what was going on, I was so engrossed in my shot.

“We shouldn’t even be speaking about them – complete idiots. Just crazy, I don’t see the point or purpose. There must be better ways of making their point.

“They could have had weapons or anything, and fair play to Olivier and the security guards who prevented it happening on our table.”

Image courtesy of Tai Chengzhe.

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