Man United game abandoned as bomb disposal squad called to Old Trafford
Manchester United's final Premier League game against Bournemouth has been abandoned after a suspect package was found in one of the stands at Old Trafford.
The bomb disposal squad was called in and a controlled explosion carried out within the stadium. Greater Manchester Police described it as an "incredibly lifelike explosive device" but added that the "device wasn't viable."
Before the controlled explosion took place, Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable John O'Hare justified the abandonment by saying in a statement: "We don't make these decisions lightly and we have done this today to ensure the safety of all those attending.''
Bomb disposal experts carried out controlled explosion at Old Trafford on what is described as incredibly lifelike explosive device...- G M Police (@gmpolice) May 15, 2016
Full assessment now concluded and found device wasn't viable. A full search of the stadium is ongoing. Full update to follow.- G M Police (@gmpolice) May 15, 2016
The Stretford End and Sir Alex Ferguson Stand were evacuated at around 2.40 p.m. after an announcement was made for security personnel to invoke "operation red code." The 75,000-capacity stadium was around half-full at the time of the initial announcement.
Television pictures showed police with sniffer dogs walking through the stands, and shortly after 3.15 p.m. those remaining in the ground were informed the game was off.
A statement issued by United read: "Due to the discovery of a suspect package in the North-West Quadrant of the Old Trafford ground, the match against Bournemouth has been abandoned today on police advice.
"People in the stadium were asked to remain in their seats while the forecourt was cleared of fans already evacuated from the stadium.
"Further announcements will be made as soon as possible."
The Premier League tweeted to confirm that they would "seek to rearrange the fixture as soon as practically possible."
The statement 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."
All staff were evacuated from the ground as well, while the players reportedly remained inside the stadium in a suite.
Four fire engines were seen at the rear of the Stretford End stand, where stewards were patrolling the car parks as hundreds of staff waited to learn whether they would be allowed back into the stadium.
Sean Bones, vice-chairman of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust, said: "It is obviously a dark day in Premier League history. We have obviously got to give our thanks to the club and the authorities for getting supporters out of the ground safely and home to their families.
"If it turns out there was a bomb at Old Trafford it is obviously a concern that we have these type of people in our midst and it is going to have a huge effect on security at football matches in the future.''