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R&A officials worry about activists, protesters after admitting to thwarting British Open threat in 2022

HOYLAKE, England — The R&A has more to worry about than just the weather this week at the 151st Open Championship. There is also the threat of protest from environmental activists, who have targeted sporting events in Europe this summer.

R&A CEO Martin Slumbers on Wednesday conceded that it is a concern and that activists had targeted last year’s British Open but that the threat was thwarted.

“We’ve had no direct intelligence. I think you’re aware that there was direct intelligence last year, and most people in this room don’t know that The Open was targeted last year,” Slumbers said during his press conference on the eve of the championship. “We have significant security procedures in place. We work clearly with the law enforcement agencies, and we’ll wait and see what happens. You will have seen that we advised the players, please don’t get involved, and I stand by that. We have enough things in place to be able to deal with it.”

A series of protests by environmental groups such as “Just Stop the Oil,” who are calling on the UK government to stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects, have interrupted cricket, tennis and horse racing.

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At Wimbledon two weeks ago, two protesters were arrested after running onto one of the courts and disrupting a match by throwing orange confetti.

At the cricket match, a protester spread orange powder until England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow carried off one of them.

On Tuesday, reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm was asked if he would be tempted to intervene if a protester protested while he was competing.

“I don’t know. I do have a reputation, so I hope they don’t catch me on a bad hole,” he cracked.

“I really don’t know,” he added. “I’ve seen a couple of those things. I know they’re going for an impact. I saw a couple of them intervening in Wimbledon, and obviously, this looks like it could be a perfect spot. But we have nothing to do with it.”

In response to a follow-up question about last year’s threat at St. Andrews in Scotland, Slumbers noted that a journalist in the room at the press conference had passed along a tip that “one of the most senior players in the field was going to be targeted by an environmental activist. That’s all I really want to say,” Slumbers said. “Beyond that, I think security matters I need to keep confidential, and I hope you understand that.”

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