Friday 19 January 2018

There will be real incidents - it's the world we live in and we have to accept it

A sniffer dog works on the side of the pitch following the evacuation of Old Trafford yesterday. Photo: Getty
A sniffer dog works on the side of the pitch following the evacuation of Old Trafford yesterday. Photo: Getty

Jason Burt

Viable or not, the organisers of Euro 2016 will have felt another shudder of apprehension as events at Old Trafford filtered through yesterday.

The calm evacuation of the stadium - and the reaction of the authorities and the fans - was laudable and well-handled.

They had no choice but to abandon the game, however disappointing and inconvenient it was. There was no sense of panic, no anger, no feeling that it was an overreaction although those feelings may have kicked in a little last night after it was revealed that the "device" was accidentally left in the stadium following a training exercise.

The announcements were clear, specific and frequent, with the ground evacuated in a controlled manner. But there was also a mood of acceptance that we may be about to see more such incidents taking place at major sports events.

This was very much a post-Paris attacks reaction. No chances can be taken; there needs to be a swift and decisive response to the potential of a terrorist threat even if it means calling off the event.

It later transpired that the device inside Old Trafford was not "viable". But the authorities simply could not take the risk. Not with the safety of 76,000 people to consider.

Security has been tightened significantly since the deadly Paris attacks last November, which included suicide bombings at the Stade de France - during a match between France and Germany - which will also be the venue for the first game of Euro 2016 on June 10 when the hosts face Romania.

A friendly between Germany and Holland was called off just 90 minutes before kick-off soon after what happened in Paris, as was a game between Spain and Belgium, because of the fear of another terrorist attack, and more such incidents are likely to take place and cause a huge amount of disruption.

Since Paris, there is far greater security at sports events - cordons, pat-downs, bag searches, sniffer dogs, metal detectors and a more highly-visible presence of stewarding. That will only increase.

At Old Trafford yesterday, cars were being stopped and there were stewards with mirrors to check underneath vehicles for devices. The pat-down saved many lives in the Stade de France incident - it caught a bomber with a suicide vest - and is now the key security procedure at stadia.

Uefa are reviewing again the security arrangements around Euro 2016 and the scenes at Old Trafford may well be repeated in France next month, which given the condensed nature of tournament football could play havoc with it all.

There have already been warnings that some games may have to be played behind closed doors. But we are in a new world situation now; sport has quite possibly changed forever.

Over the weekend the head of the EU police agency Europol voiced his worries over the possibility of a militant attack at the Euros. "I am extremely concerned about the European soccer championship. It is an attractive target for terrorists," Rob Wainwright said.

France has already announced that it plans to extend the state of emergency in place since November's attacks by two months to maintain security through the Euros.

That may mean more delays and more inconvenience for supporters. It may also even mean more games postponed at the last minute. But that is the reality we face and, to an extent, have to accept. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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