Hearn wants zero-tolerance for protesters going forward

Hearn wants zero-tolerance for protesters going forward

BARRY HEARN feels that the UK is a 'soft touch' when it comes to dealing with protesters who try to stop events like the World Championship and the Grand National. 

On Monday, a man entered an snooker arena where Robert Milkins and Joe Perry were playing. The protester climbed up onto the snooker table and released orange paint powder onto one of the tables.

A woman also tried to replicate the scene on another table where Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi were playing, but she was unable to do so because of quick intervention by the referee. Both matches were immediately suspended, and the players left the arena.

Play eventually resumed on Table 2 just before 8:00 pm UK time.

The two protesters were held backstage by tournament security officials until the police arrived. 

This comes days after animal rights activists disrupted the Grand National. One hundred eighteen people were arrested at Aintree on Saturday as they tried to scale the perimeter fence at the Grand National. 

Hearn claimed that harsher punishments have to be dealt to protesters going forward. 

"Sport's an easy target. Aintree, we saw on Saturday... How long before The Open or Wimbledon or whatever?" said Hearn to Talksport on Tuesday. 

"And it is a concern because whenever someone intrudes on the field of play, wherever it is, your first thought is not that this could be a protest, but it could be something quite harmful. 

"We're such a soft touch as a nation - smack their wrists, give them a small fine, maybe a bit of community hours, maybe a month in prison. It's a ludicrous situation but what do you do about it? 

"The problem is there's not enough deterrent out there for these people to do anything but get away with it. It might cost them a few hours of their freedom but there's no serious deterrent, and for that reason alone, expect more of these, not less. 

"It therefore puts the onus on promoters like us to say right well, we're going to have to double up our security, treble up our security, maybe we have to do more body searches... but eventually, it puts them off going. Of course, all these costs have to be paid for. 

"Custodial sentences are my way. I'm a zero-tolerance type of guy." 

The opening session between Milkins and Perry will now be played on Tuesday evening when their second session had been scheduled. Their concluding session will be played on Thursday morning.