Home Secretary backs action to protect sport from disruption
The Home Secretary, alongside the Culture Secretary, held a roundtable as Just Stop Oil disrupted matches at the Wimbledon Tennis Championship
On Wednesday 5 July, the Home Secretary chaired a meeting at 10 Downing Street, bringing together voices from government, police and sports to ensure major British events this summer are protected from criminal disruption.
The Home Secretary made clear the government will support police and event leaders to prevent protesters from frustrating fans and competitors at sporting events. She committed to a continued dialogue with event organisers to ensure lessons are learnt from recent stunts by selfish activists set on spoiling these occasions.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
"The protesters at Wimbledon were determined to ruin the day’s play for spectators and sports fans across the world.
"This is unacceptable. We will be uncompromisingly tough on the selfish protesters intent on spoiling our world-class sporting occasions this summer.
"The discussions I chaired at Downing Street were very productive. Sports, police and government are united against preventing further disruption of this kind."
The Home Secretary backed police and sports organisers to take swift action to preserve events taking place this summer. Identifying risks early, mitigating and eliminating them, backed by swift enforcement action will be central to this approach.
The government provided police with a clear definition of serious disruption earlier this year, making clear forces should treat repeatedly disruptive protests as sustained campaigns, not standalone events.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:
"We convened a roundtable of event organisers and the police to redouble efforts to prevent further disruption to the Great British summer of sport, as we have seen at Wimbledon.
"We must protect the right to peaceful protest, but that does not give licence to a vocal minority to spoil events that millions of us enjoy.
"Anyone thinking of attempting to disrupt these events should think again."
The Policing Minister, Chris Philp, and the Minister for Sport, Stuart Andrew, also pledged to continue close contact with law enforcement and cultural sectors to grip the issue ahead of major events including Silverstone.
Public order and events leads from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and National Police Co-ordination Centre updated attendees on preparations at other events this summer, including intelligence gathering to foil activists’ plans.
Sporting organisations shared their efforts to reinforce security with stewards, consider securing more injunctions to allow officers to act quickly against disruption and see more individuals who undertake guerrilla protest acts face prison sentences.
Other national bodies and event organisers in attendance were:
- Lawn Tennis Association
- England and Wales Cricket Board
- Racecourse Association
- British Horseracing Authority
- Rugby Football League
- Rugby Football Union
- Premier League
- English Football League
- The R&A
- Professional Darts Corporation
- Greyhound Board of Great Britain
- Ascot Racecourse
- Silverstone Circuits
- Arena Racing
- World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association
The government recently introduced new legislation through the Public Order Act 2023, criminalising actions such as ‘locking on’. Police will also be able to stop and search protesters for items like padlocks and superglue if they suspect they are setting out to cause chaos. The measures will help tackle tactics seen at Premier League games last year, where protesters used cable ties to attach themselves to goal posts.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 also made it easier to tackle public nuisance caused by protesters. This has assisted police in making swift arrests, as seen at the Grand National in April where 118 activists were arrested for attempting to breach the track and the event was back on course in 12 minutes.