By Mark Staniforth, PA
Protesters disrupted the evening session of the World Championship in Sheffield by invading the arena and tipping orange paint dye onto one of the tables shortly after play resumed.
A man wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ T-shirt interrupted the match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry by jumping onto one of the tables and tipping out the powder, while a woman was prevented from executing a similar stunt on the other table by the quick thinking of referee Olivier Marteel.
Play was suspended for the evening on the affected table, which will be re-covered overnight, while the match between Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi resumed after a delay of approximately 45 minutes.
It is the second time in three days that a major international sporting event has been disrupted, after 118 people were arrested at Aintree on Saturday as they tried to scale the perimeter fence at the Grand National.
Seven-time champion Stephen Hendry, on commentary duties for the BBC, called the incident “scary” and admitted: “I have never seen that before at a snooker event. It’s a first.”
The protesters were held backstage by tournament security officials until the police arrived.
South Yorkshire Police later confirmed two people had been arrested and remained in custody.
“Two people were detained after protestors gained entry to The Crucible earlier this evening (Monday 17 April),” the force said in a statement.
“A 30-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Both are in police custody.”
🎱 NEW OIL AND GAS WILL SNOOKER US
🦺 At around 7:20pm, two Just Stop Oil supporters have disrupted the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, interrupting play. The pair proceeded to cover the tables in orange powder paint before being removed by… pic.twitter.com/xWJXjW82jf
— Just Stop Oil (@JustStop_Oil) April 17, 2023
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 re-arranged at a later date.
Just Stop Oil issued a statement which read: “At around 7:20pm, two Just Stop Oil supporters have disrupted the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, interrupting play.
“The pair proceeded to cover the tables in orange powder paint before being removed by security and arrested.
“They are demanding that the Government immediately stop all new UK fossil fuel projects and are calling on UK sporting institutions to step into civil resistance against the Government’s genocidal policies.”
This is the Crucible.
The show will go on. pic.twitter.com/x657MDtybZ
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) April 17, 2023
It is not the first time play at the Crucible has been subject to unlikely interventions. In 2008 a streaker danced around the table prior to the start of the final session of the final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter.
Last year, a pigeon briefly interrupted play midway through the second-round match between Mark Selby and Yan Bingtao.
Allen and Fan were given a standing ovation upon their return to the arena, and Allen duly responded by turning a break of 24 into a 126 clearance to black as he resumed the event in style.