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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Man United: Contractor signed suspect device 'as being removed' following training exercise

Ed Woodward says the device could not have been detected by sniffer dogs as it didn’t carry explosives.

A police officer and sniffer dog search Old Trafford on Sunday.
A police officer and sniffer dog search Old Trafford on Sunday.
Image: Martin Rickett

MANCHESTER UNITED VICE-CHAIRMAN Ed Woodward says the company contracted to carry out a training exercise at Old Trafford had wrongly accounted for the suspect device which caused yesterday’s security alert.

In a statement released this afternoon, Woodward says ’valuable lessons’ will be learned following the incident and insisted the club were right to abandon the game.

The suspect device, which was found by a steward in toilets in the ground’s north-west corner, was ‘accidentally’ left by a security company after a training exercise last Wednesday.

The army bomb disposal unit were required to carry out a controlled explosion inside Old Trafford following the evacuation of the 75,000 seater stadium.

Woodward moved to defend the club, saying that the contractor had signed for the device after the end of the training exercise along with 13 other devices.

Significantly, Woodward insists the device could not have been detected by sniffer dogs during the routine matchday search because it contained no explosives.

“The safety of the fans is our number one aim at every event we host at Old Trafford,” the statement on Man United’s website read.

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth - Barclays Premier League - Old Trafford Woodward has praised the club's staff. Source: Martin Rickett

“Overall, I’m proud of how our staff responded.

“The facts are:

  • On the discovery of a suspect package, the police and the club worked quickly and closely to identify the threat, make people safe and evacuate the ground calmly and efficiently.
  • Fans of both clubs behaved impeccably and the evacuation – the first of its type in the UK – was a complete success.
  • Following investigation, the device proved to have been left in error following the training of dog handlers by a sub contractor.
  • The contractor had signed the device as having been recovered along with the 13 other devices at the end of the exercise.
  • That device could not have been detected by sniffer dogs on the routine matchday search of the 100 Club, as it contained no explosives and was used in an exercise training handlers not dogs.

“Once a live situation was identified, the club and police had no option but to treat the matter as a potential terror threat; we could not have assumed it was a training exercise error. Presented with the same situation in the future, we would take the same action.

“We have worked very closely with the police and counter-terrorism specialists for many years now and enjoy their support on a daily basis.

“For tomorrow’s (Tuesday) rearranged match against Bournemouth, we are working closely with Greater Manchester Police to ensure that robust security measures continue to be of the highest priority.

“We are conducting a detailed evaluation with the help of the police and will share our findings across the rest of the game. Valuable lessons will have been learned from yesterday’s events and it is important that those are shared with other stadium operators to ensure that the safety of the public remains the first duty of us all.”

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth - Barclays Premier League - Old Trafford Fire services outside Old Trafford. Source: Martin Rickett

The abandonment of United’s final game of the Premier League season against Bournemouth is set to cost the club millions as the inquiry into the incident got underway.

The Premier League giants have vowed to reimburse the tickets of 75,000 fans and also give them free entry to tomorrow night’s rearranged match. That gesture alone could cost United more than €3.8 million.

Tony Lloyd, Manchester’s mayor and police and crime commissioner, has called for a full inquiry into what he described as a ‘fiasco’ after the fake bomb – a mobile phone attached to a gas pipe – prompted a huge police and military operation.

Army experts staged a “controlled explosion” before police announced that the suspect device was “incredibly lifelike” but “wasn’t viable.”

British media named the company that left the device in the stadium as Security Search Management and Solutions.

The incident left a number of spectators deeply disappointed.

About 3,500 Bournemouth fans made a 500-mile (800-kilometre) round trip to Manchester to see their club’s first league game at Old Trafford.

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth - Barclays Premier League - Old Trafford Sniffer dogs were used to sweep the stadium. Source: Martin Rickett

Players from the both teams were already on the pitch for their warm-up before the stadium was evacuated.

“What happened in Old Trafford this Sunday left all of us who were there absolutely shocked,” United’s Spanish midfielder Juan Mata wrote in a blog on the club website.

“It helped not to spread panic around, although all of us had a very odd feeling; something like strain mixed with a lack of understanding.

“I feel sorry for all those people who had to go back home without watching the game.”

With reporting from AFP

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Ryan Bailey

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