London (AFP) – Armed police looked on as thousands watched the Great CityGames in the centre of Manchester on Friday just days after a suicide bomb at a pop concert claimed 22 lives and wounded dozens.
Similar robust security measures will be a feature of English football’s showpiece event the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday and several other high profile sporting events in the weeks to come.
The re-inforced measures have been put in place with the terror alert raised to its highest level of ‘critical’ meaning another attack is believed to be imminent.
Spectators attending the Scottish Cup final in Glasgow, the English Premiership rugby union final at Twickenham and the cricket one-day international between England and South Africa in Southampton all on Saturday will see a significantly increased armed police presence on the periphery of the stadia.
They have also been asked to turn up earlier than usual for security checks and to act as eyes and ears for the security services.
“We are working closely with both the Football Association (FA) and Wembley to ensure this weekend’s iconic football matches pass off without incident,” said Britain’s top counter terrorism police officer Mark Rowley.
“Together we have a long history of delivering safe and secure major sporting events.
“This will include extra armed officers on foot patrol around the environs of the Stadium, and the deployment of police armoured vehicles to support road closures.
“At Twickenham rugby fans will see more armed officers on foot around the stadium.
“Our operations will include a range of highly visible but also covert and discreet tactics and this will run far beyond the final whistle and away from specific stadia.
“This will also apply right throughout the transport network.
“I would ask people to be our eyes and ears — if you see something suspicious tell a police officer or member of security staff.”
– ‘Reassure, help and keep you safe’ –
There will also be an armed police presence at Monday’s one-day international between England and South Africa at Lord’s in north west London.
“Advice has been sought from the Metropolitan Police and, in line with other major sporting and public events being held this week, there will be an armed police presence outside Lord’s on Monday,” said Derek Brewer, Secretary of the Marylebone Cricket Club the owners of Lord’s.
English rugby club Northampton, who are hosting French side Stade Francais in a European Rugby Championship play-off match on Friday, implemented an ‘Open Jacket Policy’ demanding supporters wearing jackets to unzip them before being allowed to enter their stadium.
Events further down the track will also see extra armed police deployed including two major horse racing events, Saturday week’s Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot later in June — both of which are regularly attended by Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family.
Fans going to Cardiff for European football’s premier club competition the Champions League final on Saturday week have also been assured by UEFA on Friday that the fan zones will be open.
“Contrary to what has been said in some media outlets, the “fan zones” and festival will take place as planned under strict security measures, measures which have been developed over months in cooperation with the Football Association of Wales and the local authorities.”
Rowley also wished to strike a reassuring note. “If you are out in London this weekend or at an event talk to our officers, they are there to reassure, help and keep you safe.”
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