Open organisers admit preventing protests at Royal Liverpool will be 'challenging'
But, at a media briefing for this year’s Claret Jug event at Royal Liverpool, The R&A also insisted it felt “comfortable” about being able to stop play from being disrupted due to a “robust” security plan for the season’s final major.
Over a hundred animal rights activists were arrested at the Grand National on Saturday as they tried to invade the Aintree course and disrupt the world-famous race.
Then, on Monday in a Just Stop Oil protest, two people invaded the Crucible arena in Sheffield during the World Snooker Championship. A man climbed on to one of the tables and released a packet of orange powder while a woman attempted to glue herself to the other table.
The two separate protests have sparked fears of other big sporting events being hit this year and there is already history of The Open being targeted at Royal Liverpool, where six flour bombs were thrown on to the 18th green in 2006 in a public demonstration by Fathers for Justice.
Speaking at the Hoylake venue, The R&A’s communications manager Mike Woodcock said: “Every year, obviously security is a big priority for us. We go through a vigorous process with our command structure and work with a wide variety of security agencies and police and local authorities are involved in that process.
“Every year we are looking to see what the situation is and assess any potential issues, threats, problems that might arise and it won’t be any different this year. We will obviously be conscious of what’s happened in recent days and do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t recur back here in July.”
Referring to the scale of a golf course and the fact there will be 260,000 spectators attending the event on 20-23 July, he added: “It is certainly challenging, there is no doubt about that. But we’ve dealt with protests before at The Open. It’s not new for us. We go through a lot of scenario planning. We are tapped into all the intelligence, all the assessments and we will do everything we can to try and prevent it.”
The attendance figure will be the biggest outside of St Andrews for an Open, surpassing a total of 235,000 at Birkdale in 2017. On the event’s last visit to Royal Liverpool in 2014, when Rory McIlroy claimed the Claret Jug, the figure was 230,000.
“We can’t comment on what the facilities and arrangements were at the Grand National,” said Rhodri Price, The R&A’s director of championships, as he also addressed the possible threat of protests for this edition at the Merseyside venue. “But what we can say is that we are comfortable with the robust plans we have at the actual points of entry, bag searching, security checking.”
Meanwhile, last year’s 150th Open at St Andrews generated over £300 million in economic benefit - a record for the event - for Scotland according to an independent study commissioned by The R&A, VisitScotland and Fife Council.
The historic event provided a total economic impact of £106 million to Scotland – new money entering the economy – according to the study conducted by Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC).
Independent research led by YouGov Sport also shows that £201 million of destination marketing benefit was delivered for Scotland, the Home of Golf as a result of The 150th Open being broadcast worldwide through linear television and digital platforms.
Martin Slumbers, The R&A’s CEO said, “The 150th Open was a historic occasion for golf which has generated a substantial economic benefit to Scotland thanks to a record-breaking attendance at St Andrews and tens of millions of fans worldwide who watched the Championship broadcast.
“We enjoyed a hugely memorable week in which we welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to the home of golf for perhaps the most eagerly anticipated Open of all time that certainly lived up to its billing. We would like to thank all of our partners for their support and commitment to staging a world-class event.”
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