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Crystal Palace football club is designated hotspot for 'spectacular' terror attack



By Christian Gysin

Last updated at 2:09 PM on 16th October 2009



To the thousands of South London football fans following Crystal Palace, their neat home ground of Selhurst Park is famous for many reasons.

French footballer Eric Cantona put the venue firmly on the map in January 1995 when he 'Kung Fu' kicked a steward who had abused him after he was sent off while playing for Manchester United.

And in the 60's the club adopted the Dave Clark Five song 'Glad All Over' as their anthem. To this day, fans still bang hands and feet on advertising hoardings in time with the beat as their team comes out to play.


article-1220862-06D8DD60000005DC-536_468x286.jpg 'Terrorism hotspot': Selhurst Park has been added to the Met's list of 100 London locations which could be targets for a 'spectacular'


But now the 26,000 capacity ground has come to the notice of senior Metropolitan police officers for an altogether more sinister and worrying reason.

Selhurst Park has been designated a terrorism 'hotspot' - a place where officers can carry out stop and searches on suspects inside or outside the ground.

But just why the Championship club's ground should have been included in a list of the Met's 100 recognised 'hotspot' zones around the capital remains something of a mystery.


The former brickfield - which in the early Eighties sold part of its terracing to Sainsbury's for an adjoining supermarket - attracts an average gate of around 16,000 fans.

But despite this being less than other London grounds such as Chelsea's Stamford Bridge and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium - which are also on the hotspot list - it is feared that Selhurst Park could be targeted by terrorists for a so-called 'spectacular' attack.

Under the Met's approach designated 'hotspots' can see anyone in or out of the stadium searched without grounds for suspicion under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.


article-0-05F616E00000044D-528_468x286.jpg Mystery: It is known know why the stadium, which attracts fewer fans than Chelsea's Stamford Bridge or Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, has been designated a 'hotspot'


The Metropolitan police declined to comment on the reasons for the ground being included on their list.

However, a spokesman explained that football stadiums were among the 'crowded places' where 'stop and searches' could be deemed necessary to prevent a terrorist outrage.

Such locations are decided at 'Borough level' and it was for this reason that Crystal Palace's ground found its way onto the list.

The good news for Palace fans - whose team are nicknamed the ' The Eagles ' after the bird on their club badge - is that grounds can also be removed from the terror list as part of a regular reassessment programme.

'The aim is to target the use of stop and search to areas such as crowded places where there is a risk of attack planning, hostile reconnaissance or other terrorist activity,' explained a Metropolitan Police spokesman.

In July the Met ended a policy of applying Section 44 powers across the whole of the capital after criticism from civil liberties campaigners, some politicians and the Government's independent reviewer of terrorism laws, Lord Carlile.


article-0-043739C7000005DC-385_468x286.jpg In July the police stopped using Section 44 search tactics across the capital, after they were felt to have antagonised law-abiding citizens


It was felt by some that the use of the powers was antagonising law-abiding citizens and residents - particularly those in ethnic minority communities.

By now concentrating on the high risk 'hotspots' it is understood the number of Section 44 searches has dropped by around 40 per cent compared to the same time last year.

However, in May it emerged that police stop and search someone in London under the Terrorism Act every three minutes.

In 2008 Met officers questioned 170,000 people on the capital's streets which was up nearly 100,000 on the 2007 figures.

During this time they arrested just 65 people for terror offences - a success rate of just 0.035 per cent.

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