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‘Robust’ security for sports events after Manchester attack


London (AFP) – Extra armed police will protect Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley and the Epsom Derby — a favourite racing event of Queen Elizabeth — as Britain ramps up security following the Manchester suicide bombing.

There are several high-profile sports events in Britain over the coming few weeks and although there are no specific threats, security will be reinforced after Monday’s attack that killed 22 and injured dozens.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack at the end of a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande.

Manchester United will play in an emotionally charged Europa League final later on Wednesday against Ajax in Sweden which will have around 1,200 police officers providing a security presence.

A minute’s silence will be held in tribute to the victims as it was at the first one-day international cricket match between England and South Africa at Headingley, Leeds, and both sets of players will wear black armbands.

The South African team have been told there will be extra police officers on duty at the ground and increased security at team hotels and practice.

The Epsom Derby on June 3, the blue riband of flat racing and a horse race that the Queen regularly attends, usually attracts up to 100,000 spectators and there will be more armed police officers watching on.

“This year, in light of the recent attack in Manchester and elsewhere in the world, we have reviewed our policing approach with the racecourse and with our partner agencies,” said police Chief Superintendent Jerry Westerman.

“People attending will notice tighter security measures and firearms officers in and around the Derby grounds, which we feel people have a right to expect and are commonly seen at large events of this type.”

Phil White, responsible for running Jockey Club-owned Epsom, south of London, said there would be “robust measures in place”.

– ‘Enhanced measures’ –

Another marquee event of the flat racing season, Royal Ascot — which several members of the royal family attend — takes place from June 20 to 24 and will also have a strong security presence.

“There will be around 200 police on duty along with sniffer dogs,” Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and communications, told The Sun newspaper.

The Great City Games are due to go ahead in Manchester on Friday evening.

The likes of former world 100 metres champion Kim Collins and British Paralympic great Jonnie Peacock are due to compete.

Sunday’s Great Manchester Run — which attracted 35,000 runners in 2016 — will also go ahead organisers decided on Wednesday after consulting with police and the local council.

“Manchester is a truly resilient city and we look forward to successfully hosting these great sporting events, with the support of Greater Manchester Police,” said Luthfur Rahman, the Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, in a statement. 

Wembley Stadium will be the focus of beefed-up security at the weekend with the showpiece FA Cup between Arsenal and Chelsea on Saturday, whilst the League Two (third tier) and Championship finals are on Sunday and Monday respectively.

“Fan safety is of paramount importance and we have robust security measures in place at Wembley Stadium,” a Football Association spokesman said. 

“In collaboration with the Metropolitan Police and the local authorities there will be an enhanced security operation for all upcoming events.

“All supporters are encouraged to arrive for events at Wembley Stadium as early as possible for security checks and to avoid any delays in entering the stadium.”

However, both Chelsea and Arsenal eased the police’s lengthy list of security tasks on Wednesday.

Chelsea cancelled their planned Premier League victory parade and Arsenal announced they would not hold one either if they win on Saturday.

The Gunners have also cancelled the screening of the FA Cup final at their Emirates Stadium.

The Metropolitan Police in the capital said the public will be aware of an extra security presence whether it be concerts, shopping centres or sports events.

“Over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events you will see more officers — including armed officers,” said commander Jane Connors.

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