02082023

Manchester United bomb blunder Q&A: What was the ‘suspect package’ found?

Manchester United vs Bournemouth was abandoned after a ‘suspect package’ was found inside Old Trafford, leaving at least 76,000 fans and a watching TV audience disappointed. 

Sunday’s Barclays Premier League game was called off because a dummy bomb was left in the stadium by mistake after a training exercise. 

So when was it called off? How was it handled? Whose fault is it? Here, Sportsmail tells you all you need to know about the bomb scare that turned out to be nothing more than a blunder.

A bomb disposal vehicle pictured arriving at Old Trafford during the evacuation of the 76,000-seater stadium

A bomb disposal vehicle pictured arriving at Old Trafford during the evacuation of the 76,000-seater stadium

How did it unfold?

At 2pm, the starting line-ups were announced and all was going according to plan. The players were on the pitch warming up.

Then, at 2.40pm, supporters in the Stretford End and the Sir Alex Ferguson stand were told to leave by stewards. Initial reports suggested kick-off would be delayed by 45 minutes.

The match commander’s office was full of people on phones and fans were still in the south and east stands of the stadium. That’s because the ‘suspect package’ was found in the north west quadrant.

Then, at 3.07pm, the match was abandoned on police advice and Old Trafford was evacuated.

Fans are shown the exit as Old Trafford is evacuated on Sunday with the game abandoned 

Fans are shown the exit as Old Trafford is evacuated on Sunday with the game abandoned 

What were the crowd told?

All that was announced was ‘Operation Code Red’ and two stands at Old Trafford emptied. No reason was given, most likely to try to prevent panic.

For the supporters in the remaining two stands, they were then told: ‘Attention please, this is a message to supporters in the South and East Stands: please remain in your seats.’

Soon after, though, 3pm arrived, and they were told to leave too as the game was abandoned.

Bournemouth fans were irritated in the away end, however, as they were told to stay in their seats, despite the game having been abandoned.

Bournemouth's fans were eventually able to leave Old Trafford after the game was called off

Bournemouth’s fans were eventually able to leave Old Trafford after the game was called off

Why were only two stands evacuated at first? 

The ‘suspect package’ was found in the north west quadrant so those in the Stretford End and the Sir Alex Ferguson stand were told to leave first.

There were suggestions that the size of the device was not big enough to pose a threat to those in the remaining two stands and they were told to stay put. 

But eventually everyone was told to leave?

Once the game was called off, everyone left.

Sky Sports had to leave Old Trafford too, as Jamie Carragher, Graeme Souness and Thierry Henry delivered their analysis from the car park.

At the time, Souness said: ‘For the first time today we were patted down, I can’t remember that here. Unless they were given a tip off. It’s a great concern if this is now coming into football. If it is a bomb and people are starting to target football, how scary is that going forward?’

The Sky Sports team of (from left) Ed Chamberlain, Graeme Souness, Thierry Henry and Jamie Carragher  ‒ who were working inside the ground - were also told to evacuate to the car park

The Sky Sports team of (from left) Ed Chamberlain, Graeme Souness, Thierry Henry and Jamie Carragher ‒ who were working inside the ground – were also told to evacuate to the car park

Were the players evacuated too?

No. They stayed inside Old Trafford in a suite. Again, the device was said to not be big enough to pose a threat to where they were being kept.

A 100m radius was set up around the stadium, sniffer dogs were brought in and a controlled explosion ended up taking place after the bomb disposal squad arrived.

Manchester United’s players left individually in their cars. Bournemouth got on their bus and headed for Manchester Airport. 

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford leaves Old Trafford following the security alert on Sunday

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford leaves Old Trafford following the security alert on Sunday

Manchester United's David De Gea (left) and Ander Herrera leave Old Trafford after the abandonment

Manchester United’s David De Gea (left) and Ander Herrera leave Old Trafford after the abandonment

So Bournemouth didn’t stay over in Manchester?

No. They flew home, safe in the knowledge that the game would not be rearranged to be played within the next 24 hours. We now know they’ll need to return on Tuesday for an 8pm kick-off.

So what was it that was found?

The ‘suspect package’ found at Old Trafford was a mobile phone attached to pipes in a toilet. It was described as an ‘incredibly lifelike explosive device’ and that’s why it was taken seriously.

A controlled explosion was carried out on the device at 4.30pm, which police said was accidentally left by a private firm after a training exercise.

The ‘bomb’ was left at the stadium accidentally in the days leading up to the game. 

A training exercise was held at Old Trafford and the device, designed to look authentic, was not returned at its conclusion.  

Sniffer dogs search the West Stand after stands were evacuated before the football fixture

Sniffer dogs search the West Stand after stands were evacuated before the football fixture

 A 100m radius was set up around the stadium and sniffer dogs were brought in to Old Trafford

 A 100m radius was set up around the stadium and sniffer dogs were brought in to Old Trafford

What’s the name of the security firm that left it there? 

It was apparently left after an exercise involving a company called Security Search Management and Solutions Ltd working with a sniffer dog team run by Deacons Canines.

It appears a security expert left the device behind after the training event with one club source admitting: ‘This idiot’s in for a right kicking.’ 

So when will it be replayed and is it going to be on TV? 

Tuesday with an 8pm kick-off. And yes, it will be shown on Sky Sports.

Are the clubs doing anything to help out fans?

Yes. Manchester United will refund all tickets and allow ticket holders from both clubs to watch Tuesday’s game for free, while Old Trafford season ticket holders will also be given a credit.

It is a gesture that is estimated will cost the club around £3million.

Bournemouth are expected to make an announcement on Monday about travel arrangements for their unfortunate fans.

Manchester United vs Bournemouth will be played on Tuesday with an 8pm kick-off

Manchester United vs Bournemouth will be played on Tuesday with an 8pm kick-off

What did the Premier League have to say?

They released a statement after the abandonment. 

It read: ‘The decision to abandon the Manchester United versus AFC Bournemouth match was taken after the police advised of the necessity to deal with a suspect package.

‘When it comes to matters of security it is obviously right that Manchester United and the Premier League place the safety of supporters and employees foremost.

‘The Premier League will seek to rearrange the fixture as soon as practically possible and will advise fans accordingly. It is always the last resort to abandon one of our fixtures and while we apologise for the inconvenience caused to fans we are sure, in the circumstances, they will appreciate the need to do so.’ 

A package was identified in the north-west corner of the ground - it turned out to be from a training exercise

A package was identified in the north-west corner of the ground – it turned out to be from a training exercise

And the police? 

Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd called for a full inquiry into the ‘fiasco’ that caused great inconvenience to thousands of football fans.

Lloyd said: ‘It is outrageous this situation arose and a full inquiry is required to urgently find out how this happened, why it happened and who will be held accountable.

‘This fiasco caused massive inconvenience to supporters who had come from far and wide to watch the match, wasted the time of huge numbers of police officers and the army’s bomb squad, and unnecessarily put people in danger, as evacuating tens of thousands of people from a football stadium is not without risk.

‘Whilst this in no way demeans the professionalism of the police and stewards responsible for getting the fans out, or the supporters’ calmness and co-operation during the evacuation, it is unacceptable that it happened in the first place.’

Police and sniffer dogs were in the ground after they were told about the suspicious device found by stewards 

Police and sniffer dogs were in the ground after they were told about the suspicious device found by stewards 

And Manchester United?

Ed Woodward, executive vice chairman of the club, said: ‘The safety of fans is always our highest priority. The club takes security very seriously and staff are regularly trained with the police and emergency services to identify and deal with these incidents. 

‘We will investigate the incident to inform future actions and decisions.’ 

 

What Next?

Recent Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post comment.