Friday 20 January 2017

'Manchester United must be up front with answers over shambolic security scare' - Police chief fires warning

Published 16/05/2016 | 13:33

Fans and stewards outside the ground during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester
Fans and stewards outside the ground during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester

Manchester United must be "up front" with answers about Sunday's "shambolic" security scare at Old Trafford, the city's police and crime commissioner has said.

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Tony Lloyd, who is also the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the club's reputation and public safety had come under scrutiny after a security firm accidentally left a fake bomb in stadium toilets.

Discovery of the device shortly before United's final Premier League game of the season against Bournemouth was due to kick off sparked a full evacuation of the 75,000-capacity stadium.

Bomb disposal experts were called in and the game was abandoned while the item - described by police as an "incredibly lifelike explosive device" - was destroyed.

The dummy bomb was left behind by a private firm, understood by Press Association Sport to be Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd, who conducted a training exercise for sniffer dogs last week.

Lloyd, who has called for an inquiry, said the club needed to provide some answers.

Police use sniffer dogs as fans are evacuated from the stadium as the match is abandoned
Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
Police use sniffer dogs as fans are evacuated from the stadium as the match is abandoned Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff

He said: "I think United have to come up front with all this because in the end it's their reputation, but it's also public safety and both those two really do matter.

"I think United have got to begin to put answers forward and I look forward to hearing what they have to say as soon as possible.

"Fiasco is the right word. It was shambolic. Of course United are a huge organisation. It wasn't the fact they're the world's richest club - that they are - it was the fact that the security had missed something that in the end ought to have been found.

"What's almost impossible to understand is how in placing so many dummies for an exercise, those dummies were not counted in again. If that was, as I understand it, on Wednesday, really shouldn't people be searching all the way through till it's found, whether on Wednesday, on Thursday, on Friday - and certainly long before 20 minutes before kick-off of a major game at a time when already tens of thousands of people were in the ground?

"I think it's also astonishing that there isn't a routine sweeping of the ground to find something that seemingly was discovered quite easily once the sweep was taking place 20 minutes before kick-off, but far too late on."

It is understood Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd was hired by Deacons Canines to carry out practical training exercises for their sniffer dogs last Wednesday. The dummy bomb should have been removed at the end of the exercise.

Juan Mata and his Manchester United team-mates were on the pitch when the Old Trafford evacuation began
Juan Mata and his Manchester United team-mates were on the pitch when the Old Trafford evacuation began

Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd's managing director Chris Reid said: "It is a very unfortunate situation and the consequences obviously were that a lot of people were inconvenienced. Fortunately everybody was fine which is the most important thing."

Speaking briefly outside his home in Biggin Hill, Mr Reid said he would like to say more about the "security situation" but that he is waiting on Manchester United to contact him.

United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward promised on Sunday night an investigation would be carried out.

Woodward said: "The safety of fans is always our highest priority. We will investigate the incident to inform future actions and decisions."

As a goodwill gesture United have offered supporters inconvenienced a refund and a free ticket for the rescheduled game on Tuesday night.

Bournemouth will operate a similar scheme on tickets and everyone Cherries supporter with a valid ticket will be eligible for free coach travel for the rearranged fixture.

Press Association

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