Old Trafford evacuation ‘scary but calm’

15 May

Media captionSome fans travelled from as far afield as Azerbaijan for the match

Fans have talked of their disappointment after Man United’s final match of the season was called off when a suspect package was found.

Two stands at Old Trafford were evacuated, before bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion.

Some supporters travelled from as far afield as Azerbaijan and Sierra Leone for the match against Bournemouth.

The police response was praised by some while others criticised how the evacuation was dealt with.

Calm and controlled

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The sell-out crowd of 75,000 had come to watch the final game of the Premier League season but were evacuated

Johnny Escott, from Salford, had just got into the Stretford end of the stadium when the evacuation was announced over the tannoy.

“Everyone just looked at each other like ‘Was that a mistake?’,” he said. “It was a bit scary but no-one really started to panic massively, I walked past a few kids who were crying but everyone seemed quite calm”.

Mr Escott said he found out information from Twitter as he “got told nothing at the stadium” but said the stewards “probably did as much as they could”.

July Holmes, from Hyde, said she “didn’t get a great deal of information” when she was stopped from entering the ground and relied on people at home telling her what was going on.

But she said the fans “were amazing, they were really calm and there was no rushing or pushing. It was controlled well.”

‘Stuck outside’

Image copyright
Andy Skelly

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Andrea Skelly said fans were stopped from going in but were stuck in the crowd outside the ground

Andrea Skelly, 47, from Bury, was on her way into the ground when the announcement was made and was unhappy with the way police dealt with incident.

She said only one police officer was directing the crowd and was telling people to move back towards the car park but that it was blocked by burger vans and the mass of people.

“The problem was that you couldn’t get out… apparently the gate was blocked and we were stuck for about 20 minutes,” she said.

Greater Manchester’s assistant chief constable John O’Hare, stressed the priority “was to ensure the safety of everyone in the stadium and surrounding area”.

An “operation red code” alert was heard over the tannoy inside the ground at 14:40 BST and the players who were warming up left the field, but Mrs Skelly said fans outside were not told what was going on.

She said the “evacuation process was not very good at all” and “stewards were there but not saying what the problem was”, which led to speculation and rumour.

Manchester United said it had called off the game “on police advice”, but has not commented on the evacuation procedure.

‘Distraught to made up’

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Moses was visiting Old Trafford for the first time from Sierra Leone

One fan, who called himself Moses, had travelled to Old Trafford all the way from Sierra Leone.

“Sadly they postponed the match – I was so sad about that… but they organised so I can stay another week and I’m excited about that!,” he said.

Ian Stirling, of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, said “the lad’s distraught… it’s probably his only opportunity to come”.

But, he said the trust was paying to change his flights, put him up for the week and try to get him a ticket to the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday, adding “so out of all the despair today, the lad’s made up.”

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Fans and police could still be seen at the stadium as the Bournemouth coach left

The game would have seen United vying with Manchester City, whose kick-off was also at 15:00 BST, for a place in the Champions League.

The Premier League said it was looking to rearrange the match as soon as possible.


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