Andy Murray warned Just Stop Oil protesters they would be endangering their own safety if they went near ‘tennis players with rackets’ and tried to delay matches at Wimbledon.
The SW19 showpiece kicked off on Monday with a backdrop of fears over the threat of potential protests, with organisers on red alert after Just Stop Oil’s high-profile intervention during day one of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.
Jonny Bairstow carried one intruder off the Home of Cricket outfield on that occasion and, in response to that incident, the All England Club have urged players not to intervene and emulate the antics of England’s no-nonsense wicket-keeper.
After protests at the Grand National, Premiership Rugby final and World Snooker Championships, Murray admits there is a ‘good chance’ of something similar happening at the prestigious event this week.
But with security ramped up and more spotters being deployed in the crowd to prevent potential intrusion, Murray urged protesters to promote their cause in alternative ways and avoid the possible threat of players taking matters into their own hands.
The Scot, 36, said: “I think there is probably a good chance of something happening.
“I was talking about it with my family the other day. I don’t know, if somebody ran onto the court and came towards you, what your reaction would be to that because you don’t know who it is or what they are doing or why they are doing it.
“I didn’t see what Jonny Bairstow did, but it could be dangerous. If they would attach themselves to the net or throw something onto the court – they have to be a bit careful going near to tennis players who obviously have got rackets in their hands.
“I agree with the cause – just not always how they go about expressing it. Rather than running on the court, maybe they could do it a different way.”
Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Club, says security measures have been tightened for this year as several spectators endured significantly longer waits than usual in the traditional Wimbledon queue.
The measures come after a member of Just Stop Oil was quoted as saying it would ‘be very inspiring’ for the group to have ‘an image of someone’s hand glued to something on Centre Court.’
Bolton said: “Of course, we’ve taken account of what we’ve seen elsewhere so security has been uplifted in various places around the grounds.
“We are really confident in the measures that we’ve taken but I think as we’ve seen at other sporting events we can’t guarantee anything but we’re extremely confident that the measures we’ve got in place are the right measures and we are ready to deal with something if it happens.”
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