At sporting events all over the world, the level of security is ultra-tight but every now and then a little gap appears. It is easy for a lot of people to think of such occasions they’ve watched live in person or on TV and suddenly someone unexpected appears from nowhere. Streaking is a popular way to abruptly halt the activity unfolding on the sports field, with surprise, laughter and plenty flashing cameras prolonging the delay.
There are others who are even more elaborate in grabbing their moment in the spotlight. One man who emerged from obscurity to take centre stage in a number of world-renowned settings is Karl Power, and his story is certainly intriguing. With Manchester United trailing 1-0 from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich, United headed to Germany for the return fixture on 18 April 2001. Aside from Ryan Giggs’ consolation in a 2-1 defeat, the night was etched in the memories of those watching thanks to an incident that occurred before the game even began. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side lined up for the pre-match photo but alongside striker Andy Cole stood Karl Power, a 33-year-old supporter from Ancoats, Manchester. Despite Gary Neville and Roy Keane noticing him the photos were taken and it made headline news as a result. It was a plan thought up by Power’s lifelong friend Tommy Dunn who himself had blagged his way into the Manchester United changing rooms with camera equipment in the past. Dunn had even managed to sneak into a limo with Reds’ manager, Ferguson. Dunn and Power intended to follow up the Munich stunt with further security-outwitting mischief and they didn’t disappoint.
A test to remember
During the 2001 Ashes, Power was planned to be the next batsman to walk out for England after Marcus Trescothick had been dismissed. Hiding in the changing room toilet, Power had been talking on the phone to a friend and subsequently did not hear his associate Dunn telling him it was time to make his way out onto the pitch. As a result, England already had two batsmen out there with Nasser Hussain joining Mark Butcher, replacing Trescothick as he departed. Power made his entrance however and it was only when he removed his helmet that players and observers realised it wasn’t one of the team coming out to be a runner for Hussain or Butcher (in the event they were suffering with an injury). It may not have gone exactly to plan, indeed Power wanted Australian spin king Shane Warne to bowl for him, but as he left the field he received applause from the crowd, stewards and even a police officer.
After the 2002 British Grand Prix, Juan Pablo Montoya (third), Rubens Barrichello (runner-up) and Michael Schumacher (winner) were due to take their place on the podium at Silverstone. Together with Dunn and his son (Tommy Jr.), Power kitted himself out in full Formula One driving attire and easily passed through a turnstile at the pits. After negotiating an unlocked padlock on a gate they were stopped by a man asking who they were. Simply telling him they were drivers the trio were allowed to proceed and ultimately made their way onto the podium, celebrating by performing the Riverdance.
Ready for a ruck
The prank team took their talents to the rugby arena next as England played Italy in the Six Nations tournament. There was to be no repeat of the appearance on the team photo as in Munich but Power certainly caught the eye of the media. Ahead of the game in Rome, he performed the Haka, the dance made most famous by the New Zealand team, in front of the England line-up.
Serving the public
In 2002, British tennis hopes were still pinned largely upon the shoulders of Tim Henman. With a break before he was due to play guess who made their way onto centre court? Power and Tommy Dunn Jr. played a number of short games with each other and only decided to exit once they ran out of balls. They faced no resistance in entering or leaving the court and were even given a round of applause by those in the royal box.
An action replay
When Power briefly passed himself off as a Manchester United player in Munich he made a name for himself but his club were not so thankful when he evaded security at Old Trafford. In the build-up to a Premier League encounter between United and Liverpool in the 2002/03 season, Power and his friends found themselves on the hallowed turf. They performed their own version of a goal scored by United striker Diego Forlan in the previous meeting with Liverpool but were punished with a permanent ban by the club.
Coming from nowhere, Karl Power managed to capture the imagination of millions and all the stunts were in good heart. For Power, it gave him a huge sense of enjoyment. A friend of Happy Mondays members Shaun Ryder and Bez, the group honoured Power with the song ‘Fat Neck’ in 1996, performed as their spin-off group Black Grape. People still laugh when they think of Power and his friends’ exploits but it does beg the question of exactly why they were never stopped by anyone. After they passed all the way through to the podium at the Grand Prix at Silverstone one official told them that around £10million had been spent on security only for them to evade it with barely any disturbance. It has been some years since there was a Karl Power special and his card is now marked but he goes down in history as a lighter example of what can happen when security turns a blind eye.