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Twickenham tightens security for Premiership final amid protest fears
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Twickenham tightens security for Premiership final amid protest fears

Undercover operatives are set to be deployed in the stands at Saturday’s Premiership final at Twickenham as part of measures aimed at avoiding a repeat of last year’s pitch invasions, with the Rugby Football Union described as being “all over” security arrangements.

Premiership officials have confirmed the showdown between Northampton and Bath is their fastest ever sell-out with a crowd of 82,000 due at Twickenham, ensuring a greater security presence than last year.

Though the final is Premiership Rugby’s showpiece event, the RFU is responsible for security as it takes place at Twickenham and will be eager to mitigate against the kind of scenes witnessed last year during Saracens’ victory over Sale when two people were arrested. In the first half Just Stop Oil protesters stormed the pitch and released orange paint powder, causing a lengthy delay, and Sale’s Tom Curry forcibly removed one protester.

There have been more recent examples of crowd trouble and Bath’s semi-final victory over Sale last Saturday was blighted by an unsavoury incident involving Sale’s Jonny Hill that left a supporter with a cut above his eye. It is now being investigated by police. There have also been anecdotal reports of trouble between opposing sets of supporters at both semi-finals while last weekend’s Champions League final at Wembley was interrupted by pitch invaders.

“Last year was regrettable,” said Premiership Rugby executive Rob Calder. “We don’t want to encourage that and we are in close conversation, well in advance of this week and the next few days. I just came off an operational call. The RFU are clearly responsible for anything that happens of that nature so they are all over it, so fingers crossed there won’t be anything like that again. They are very aware of the threat of something like that.”

The RFU said that it was policy not to discuss specific measures but confirmed they are under constant review. “Our security arrangements are continually assessed and proportionate to the size and scale of event taking place at the stadium at any given time,” said an RFU spokesperson.

With Saturday’s match set to have the biggest attendance in more than a decade, Premiership Rugby’s chief executive, Simon Massie-Taylor, is optimistic about the league’s future 12 months on from London Irish becoming the third club to go to the wall.

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“We are in final week and I feel totally different to how I felt this time last year, for obvious reasons,” he said. “Just genuinely excited about what we have coming up this weekend. We have our fastest-selling sell-out. It has become the fastest selling because of the finalists we have got. But I am proud to say we would have sold out regardless.”

Source: theguardian.com