By James Bryce
SECURITY at Wimbledon has been beefed up amid fears that a Spanish protest group is plotting to hijack a Rafael Nadal match.
Campaigners from 15M London were stopped at the gates while attempting to smuggle banners and tins of paint into the grounds.
The 14 protesters – all Spanish and wearing yellow T-shirts – prompted the alert, leading to a police helicopter having to be scrambled overhead.
Thousands of fans were delayed following the incident which led to the gates at the All England Club being shut for 45 minutes on Saturday.
Now bosses fear that any of Nadal’s matches (he plays today) – or those of his fellow Spaniards including David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez – could be targeted this week.
Wimbledon boss Ian Ritchie confirmed that security had been stepped up following the incident.
“We have to be prepared for every eventuality,” he said. “We have tried to do everything we can and will continue to monitor it hour by hour.
“Who knows whether this situation goes away.”
Police confirmed that a number of people were prevented access following the searches although no arrests were made.
After the plan was rumbled 15M London’s website carried the following message: “Important: don’t go to Wimbledon – mission aborted.”
The activists describe themselves as ‘a movement of outraged citizens’ opposed to corrupt and greedy bankers.
The group represents the London branch of the Spanish-based 15M, which has held widespread protests about high unemployment and the stagnant economy.
While thousands of protesters ended their three month stake out in Madrid last month, tens of thousands marched again ten days ago in Malaga and other Spanish cities.