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The suspicious package that led to the delay of the Manchester United match at the team's Old Trafford stadium was a device left behind by a company performing a training exercise with bomb-sniffing dogs.
After an inspection of the stands, John O'Hare with the Greater Manchester Police said, "Following today’s controlled explosion, we have since found out that the item was a training device which had accidentally been left by a private company following a training exercise involving explosive search dogs."
"Whilst this item did not turn out to be a viable explosive, on appearance this device was as real as could be, and the decision to evacuate the stadium was the right thing to do, until we could be sure that people were not at risk," he said.
Police had earlier asked people near the stadium to avoid the immediate area as police and the Army Bomb Disposal Unit searched the stadium with bomb sniffing dogs.
Fans in the stadium sitting near the suspicious package were evacuated around the time the Premier League game against Bournemouth was due to start at 3 p.m. (10 a.m. ET), according to the Greater Manchester Police Department, which said the match had been "abandoned." A “controlled evacuation” of the stadium was completed within about an hour, according to police.
United confirmed in a Tweet that a suspect package was found in the North West quadrant of the stadium.
Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd called the incident "outrageous" and demanded an investigation.
"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," Lloyd said.
Tony Woods was sitting with his daughter in the area that was first evacuated. He said some people were “panicked,” while most stayed calm. “I think children were concerned — children were very frightened but the adults were orderly,” he said.
The game would have been Manchester United’s final game of the season, and if they don’t win the game against Bournemouth, they could lose their top four spot and their chance to play in the Champions League.
The game has been rescheduled for Tuesday, the Premiere League said in a statement. “It is always the last resort to abandon one of our fixtures and while we apologize for the inconvenience caused to fan we are sure, in the circumstances, they appreciate the need to do so,” the statement said.
“We are doing everything we can to investigate this item as quickly as possible, however our priority is obviously to ensure the safety of everyone in the stadium and surrounding area,” O’Hare said.
In November, blasts rocked Paris’ Stade de France in the first of a series of terrorist attacks carried out across the city that left 130 people dead.
Days later, the stadium of the German team set to play France when the three bombs went off was also evacuated after a suspicious package was found there. Police said that “concrete evidence” was found that someone had planned to set off explosives at the game, but no bombs were ever found.