Snooker Stars Wary Of Further Security Threats Following Just Stop Oil Crucible Protest

The World Championships were interrupted when an activist got on the table in the Rob Milkins against Joe Perry first-round match in Sheffield
18:02, 18 Apr 2023

Mark Allen and Mark Williams fear this year’s attack on the Crucible by climate protesters shows a Monica Seles-style stabbing is possible in snooker.

This year’s World Championships were interrupted when a ‘Just Stop Oil’ activist got on the table in the Rob Milkins against Joe Perry first-round match in Sheffield – before covering it in orange powder.

Another was prevented from trying to glue herself to the other table by referee Olivier Marteel in the Allen v Fan Zhengyi match.


But despite no one getting hurt, security and player safety immediately come under scrutiny given the ease with which the protest was executed.

Three-time world champion Williams, 48, was quick to point out “the problem is they could have had knives on them” as a scarier side of the theatre’s intimate and tight surroundings was highlighted.

Former tennis women’s world No1 and nine-time grand slam winner Seles was infamously stabbed while sitting in her chair by a crazed fan invading the court in Hamburg 30 years ago.

And player of the season Allen, looking for a first Crucible success after winning three titles in the current campaign, said: “I can see there is a safety risk.

“Knowing that people jumping out could have had knives makes what referee Olivier Marteel did even more impressive.

“He didn’t know what they had or didn’t have, he just instinctively acted.

“Unfortunately bad things happen. We saw it with Monica Seles in tennis, and you get some crazed fans or crazed protestors that go down weird roads to prove their point.

“The spectators are very close. I remember thinking the first time I played here at the Crucible that it feels as if someone could reach out and touch your cue.

“So if you had someone in there that could potentially be a danger, it’s far from perfect. But it’s hard to know what more you can do. Even more security? I’m not sure if you want to go down that road.

“I know some players have received death threats, and have had to play under that knowledge.”

Meanwhile John Higgins has backed the ramping-up of security at the World Championships to snuff out any copy-cat attacks.

After an impressive 10-3 win over Leeds’ David Grace to reach the second round, Higgins said: “I just think if other people see something like this, people are copy-cats sometimes.

“If people see it is that easy to do that, they might have it in their minds to think ‘I could maybe do something worse’. So that’s why it should be beefed up, and all bags checked.

“It was good to have the extra security officer at table level today.

“Incidents like this put fears in the back of your mind, but if you worry about everything, you wouldn’t walk out the front door.

“The security probably does need strengthening, sporting events do seem to keep on being targeted.

“In the past we players think of ourselves as ordinary working-class guys, we don’t see ourselves as superstars or expect that level of security. But maybe we should.”

The activists arrested by South Yorkshire Police on Monday night on suspicion of causing criminal damage were named yesterday.

Eddie Whittingham, 25, an Exeter University student, and Margaret Reid, 52, a former museum professional from Kendal, were still awaiting possible charges.

There was an immediate beefing-up of the security arrangements for staff, media and spectators like at the Crucible yesterday.

All bags were being opened and searched and just small ones allowed into the theatre, with everything else required to be left at cloakrooms.

Audience members entering the venue were patted down by security staff, there was an increased police presence outside in Tudor Square, and extra security close to the tables.

A World Snooker statement read: “The security of the public and players is always our top priority at every WST event and we have robust measures in place at all times.

“Following the incident at the Cazoo World Championship on Monday evening, we have increased existing security measures around the event at the Crucible.

“We also continue to liaise with local law enforcement authorities regarding these procedures.”

Former WST chairman Barry Hearn has called for far stiffer penalties for those found guilty of offences connected to disrupting major sporting events.

He said: “Sport is an easy option for those who want to disrupt.

“I would tighten security up, but it would help me if there were more clearly defined penalties for people that are subsequently found guilty of an offence of this nature.

“I don’t see any deterrence. It’s not an anarchy, it’s a democracy. And if people break those rules then there must be a deterrent to stop others doing it again. We have all gone a bit soft.”

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Image courtesy of Tai Chengzhe

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