Fake Bomb Clears Soccer Stadium

A dummy explosive, which was left behind after a canine exercise, caused  stadium to be evacuated May 14, right before the British Premiere League kickoff between home team Manchester United and Bournemouth. 

Photo: Mike Egerton / PA via AP
Security stewards stand outside Old Trafford stadium after the final soccer match of the season between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth was abandoned due to a suspect package being found inside the stadium. 

Security Search Management & Solutions (SSMS), a subcontractor of Manchester United, conducted a training exercise for dog handlers the previous week. One of the fake bombs used in the drill had accidentally been left behind, probably thanks to a simple miscount when leaving the premises. A member of the club’s staff found the device in a toilet in the lead-up to the match.

The club issued a statement on its website, detailing the events that led to the evacuation of the 75,000-capacity stadium, which is usually sold out on match days. “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.

“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 match day search of the 100 Club [executive lounge], as it contained no explosives and was used in an exercise training handlers not dogs.”

Photo: Martin Rickett / PA via AP
Fans leave the stands after a security announcement during the English Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester, England, May 15. 

The evacuation and rescheduling of the match, which was set to take place, May 17, cost north of £3 million. According to the Telegraph, this marks the first game cancellation due to security concerns in the Premiere League’s 24-year history.

Manchester United’s management said in its statement that “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. “Fans of both clubs behaved impeccably and the evacuation – the first of its type in the UK – was a complete success,” it continues.

Christopher Reid, managing director of SSMS, the man conducting the training exercise, told Kent Online that he was still waiting for the club’s decision on the future of their working relationship. “I’m sure they’re having meetings at the moment to see which guillotine they’re going to use on me. I have to take responsibility in the end, I won’t shirk my responsibility,” he said.

Reid didn’t rule out the possibility of having to go into liquidation, but didn’t want to say too much as the whole incident posed a security issue. He emphasized that there was a lot he wanted to say to the fans.

“I’m really sorry they had to miss their game,” he told the local newspaper. Reid has decades of experience in security.

Prior to starting his own company SSMS, he was working for G4S, which was in charge of the 2012 London Olympics.

The former Royal Marine also worked as counter terrorist police search advisor for the Met Police for more than 30 years.