Premier League clubs to beef up security after Old Trafford breach

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Jeremy Wilson
·5-min read
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Premier League clubs ready to increase stadium security after Old Trafford breach - GETTY IMAGES
Premier League clubs ready to increase stadium security after Old Trafford breach - GETTY IMAGES

Premier League clubs are preparing to ramp up their security measures as Manchester United revealed fresh details of how fans stormed Old Trafford and forced their match against Liverpool to be postponed.

Investigations by Greater Manchester Police, the Premier League and the Football Association are underway, with United having already issued a statement to deny suggestions that club staff enabled protesters to access the stadium and pitch by opening a gate. United, who will be asked to explain how their security was so badly breached, pointed to how some fans were “intent on disrupting the team’s preparation and the game”.

“After breaking through barriers and security on the forecourt, some protestors climbed the gates at the end of the Munich tunnel, then forced access to a side door in the stand, before opening an external door that let others through to the concourse area and the pitch,” said a club statement. “A second breach occurred when a protestor smashed the door of a disability access lift, enabling a group to enter the stand.

“The majority of our fans have and will condemn criminal damage, along with any violence towards club staff, police or other fans, and these now become a police matter. The club has no desire to see peaceful protestors punished, but will work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its own sanctions to any season ticket holder or member identified.”

According to United’s sanctions policy, damaging property or disorderly behaviour carries a ban of between one and six games, while abusive or aggressive behaviour towards staff and police, as well as any criminal activity, can lead to indefinite suspensions from Old Trafford.

It is understood that the club will focus on those who were violent or caused criminal damage in respect of sanctions rather than fans who simply entered the stadium or went onto the pitch.

Police described the behaviour of some protestors as “reckless and dangerous” and said bottles and barriers were thrown at officers, with one requiring emergency hospital treatment for a “significant slash wound” to the face.

With further protests planned against the ‘rebel six’ Premier League clubs who signed up to a European Super League, attention has now turned to home fixtures this week for Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

The Metropolitan Police said that “a proportionate policing plan will be in place” for Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final against Villarreal on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.

Thousands of supporters had gathered at the ground ahead of the Premier League game against Everton to demonstrate but Arsenal were anticipating protests and got players to the stadium early for that game.

United’s next home fixture is on May 12 against Leicester City. Liverpool, who also angered fans by initially joining the Super League, will play on Saturday at Anfield against Southampton.

Alex Bomberg, whose Intelligent Protection firm provides security for footballers and celebrities, said that it should be “relatively straightforward” to secure stadium entry but that transporting teams from hotels was more complex during large demonstrations.

“The weakest point is the road because, if you start closing roads, you start causing issues with blue services getting through for legitimate reasons,” he said. “Full risk assessments need to be carried out. It’s not just about man power. It’s throwing people at it in the right places. Your assets need to be in the right place and be flexible.

“I would imagine police will want to know what they did, and any changes that can be made. You have to learn. Its not about chest prodding or pointing the finger. It happened. The thing to do is to learn from it and build it into your risk assessment.

“You have got to be ready. You know there is an element that could break the law. You can’t just plan for a peaceful protest. You have to plan for a worst case scenario. I don't think it is going away.”

Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, defended the Old Trafford policing operation and stressed that it is the taxpayer rather than wealthy clubs who ultimately have to pay for policing football-related disorder.

“I am surprised the fans got into the ground,” he told Radio 5 Live. “The security of the ground is a matter for the club, their stewards. Clearly they were met with a big crowd. We have seen from the scenes that quite a number of the people involved had been drinking. The club only pays for policing in the ground. All these additional costs - more officers, officers brought in from other forces - will fall to taxpayers.

“Obviously the police themselves could have used more force but the outcome probably would have been more officers injured, fans injured. Thankfully there weren't a higher degree of assaults, injuries and disorder.

“Manchester Police also had the challenge that later it could have been that City won the title. That would have brought a lot of people onto the street as well. Bank holiday weekend. It was a difficult situation. Their primary concern was to try to make sure nobody got injured and no more police officers got injured. I think it was probably a straightforward decision to say the match had been postponed because they were no way they could get the players in without more people being injured.”

How Old Trafford was stormed - the two breaches that shocked English football
The Munich tunnel entrances showing the area fans - Paul Cousans/Zenpix Ltd
The Munich tunnel entrances showing the area fans - Paul Cousans/Zenpix Ltd
Fans scale the gate
Fans scale the gate
Old Trafford Munich Tunnel gate open
Old Trafford Munich Tunnel gate open
Old Trafford Munich Tunnel break in disabled entrance door.jpg
Old Trafford Munich Tunnel break in disabled entrance door.jpg