Wimbledon 2023: Officials up security measures in a bid to stop Just Stop Oil protesters

The All England Lawn Tennis Club  (Getty Images)
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (Getty Images)

Security measures at Wimbledon have been ramped up with more bag searches and “enhanced” behavioural detection officers prowling SW19 in a bid to stop environmental protesters from disrupting play.

Organisers are bracing themselves for action by groups such as Just Stop Oil following a spate of disruptions at high-profile sporting events in 2023.

Last week, there was a pitch invasion at the opening of the second test of the Ashes, with other disruptions taking place at the Premiership rugby and at the World Snooker Championships earlier this year.

It comes 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.”

On Monday, Chief executive of the All England Club Sally Bolton said security arrangements at Wimbledon have been “uplifted.”

She said all visitors could expect to have their bags searched, with plain-clothed Behavioural Detection Officers working on site in a bid to stop any action.

People queueing to get into the All England Club on Monday were expericing longer waits to get in - with items such as spray deodorant confiscated.

Asked about whether she is expecting a protest at the tournament, she told reporters: “Of course we’ve taken account of what we’ve seen elsewhere so security has been uplifted in various places around the grounds.”

Ms Bolton added: “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.”

Sally Bolton with the Duchess of Cambridge in 2021 (PA)
Sally Bolton with the Duchess of Cambridge in 2021 (PA)

She went on: “We have 100% bag search in place at all gates and then we have selective body search at the gates as well. We will do that on the basis of intelligence so there will be some pat down searches.”

On Behavioural Detection Officers working throughout the championships, she said: “Every year a part of our security arrangements are a group of what are called Behavioural Detection Officers.

“We work very closely with the Met with their BDOs as they are called.

“They’re not a new thing this year. We have them every year so again they’re part of our operation this year and in a slightly enhanced way and maybe looking for slightly different things than they would in any other year.”

She said the club was “very committed to being environment positive” and called for people to “respect” those at Wimbledon who wanted to watch the tennis in a “safe” environment.

Ms Bolton said: “We are committed to being environment positive, it shapes a lot of things we do here - nothing going to landfill, using only renewable electricity, removing all gas from the estate. We are committed to that agenda.

“We would appeal to those attending the championships to respect the fact that other people attending the championships want to view the tennis, enjoyably and in a safe environment.”

Meanwhile, Sir Andy Murray admitted there is “a good chance” Wimbledon will be targeted by protesters.

He said: “I would imagine probably something would happen here.”

Sir Andy said he: “Agreed 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,” he said. “I didn’t see what Jonny Bairstow did, but it could be dangerous.”

It comes as Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Lucy Frazer suggested she could “not guarantee” that Just Stop Oil would not disrupt Wimbledon.

Asked what action was being taken to prevent a protest being staged at the event, she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she was “confident” that police had the powers to intervene.

She, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and a “number of other parties” are having a “roundtable” discussion on how to take action to stop Just Stop Oil disrupting events across the country.

“Of course I can’t guarantee that nothing is going to happen, but what I am confident about is the police understand the importance of these events going ahead and we have given them the powers to act,” Ms Frazer said.