Gary Lineker has expressed his sympathy for climate protesters at Wimbledon, adding they are “not going to hurt anyone”.
The sports presenter and former footballer said he understood “where they’re coming from” but could also see why fans at the tennis tournament were frustrated.
Two men and a woman were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of aggravated trespass and criminal damage after they entered Court 18 during two separate matches and threw orange confetti and jigsaw puzzle pieces on to the court.
“I completely understand where they’re coming from”
The first protest happened as Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer held talks with police and sports chiefs on how to prevent Just Stop Oil activists targeting flagship events.
Speaking after chairing an environmental panel at Wimbledon, Lineker told the PA news agency: “I completely understand where they’re coming from. Disruptive protest is the only one that gets any publicity.
“I get it. I also understand why people get so upset with it, particularly in sport. It is a difficult one.
“I think what is more important is probably our existence in the future rather than slight disruption of sporting events or other things.
“You don’t want things to be disrupted but at the same time they will really be disrupted with climate change.
“From what I’ve seen… splashing a bit of paint on a piece of glass where there is a painting behind, throwing jigsaw puzzles and a bit of confetti is not going to hurt anyone,” he said.
He said he respected the protesters for “how they are prepared to just go to jail for a week” and their desire to make a difference.
Speaking during Lineker’s panel, British tennis player Heather Watson, who exited this year’s tournament in the first round, said the protest was “uncomfortable to watch”.
The 31-year-old added: “I was thinking ‘if I was playing on that court, I wonder how I would have felt’.
“You don’t know what somebody is running on the court for. You fear for your safety.”
Policing minister Chris Philp backed spectators intervening in such protests on Thursday, telling Times Radio it is “reasonable” for fans to attempt to “protect the event they’re watching”.