(P132) A new home for Palace?, Croydon Advertiser, 30 January 2004

Football club in talks about switch from Selhurst Park to redeveloped stadium in Crystal Palace Park

exclusive by Ian Austen

Crystal Palace FC is involved in secret talks over a move from its Selhurst Park home.

Discussions about a switch to a redeveloped stadium at Crystal Palace Park have taken place between Croydon Council, the football club and the London Development Agency (LDA), the Advertiser can reveal.

The club has been at Selhurst Park for 80 years and a move would see it return to its historic home, where it was founded in 1905.

Any move is some years off but it is understood the football club is interested in returning to the area with which is name is synonymous.

It is no secret that club chairman Simon Jordan is not entirely happy with the short lease he has at Selhurst Park and he may be attracted by the idea of taking a longer lease at what would be a state-of-the-art venue.

Senior sources at Croydon Council told the Advertiser it is felt there are more advantages than disadvantages to the switch.

Technically the club would be moving from Croydon into neighbouring Bromley, but both boroughs would benefit. The sources said a move would provide an economic boost to the area around the Upper Norwood Triangle.

It is also a move which it is felt would be the most acceptable to fans because the new ground would not be far from Selhurst Park and would restore the club's historical links.

The prospect of a move is also likely to enhance Mayor of London Ken Livingstone's chances of getting backing for a new stadium.

More than £1.5m has just been committed to revamping the existing running track and Mr Livingstone has indicated he wants the rest of the stadium turned into an excellent sporting stadium for south London.

He believes the chances of getting the necessary funding would be boosted if he could show the stadium had an anchor tenant, preferably a major football or rugby club. Palace would play that role.

A spokeswoman for the Mayor said the long-term future of the stadium would not be discussed until the future of the existing sports centre is sorted.

Mr Livingstone is supporting a scheme which would see the centre and its 50-metre swimming pool replaced by new facilities.

A decision on its immediate and longer term future is expected within the next few weeks.

But the spokeswoman added: "There have been no talks between the Mayor and Crystal Palace Football Club about any move."

The one black mark against the latest idea, according to council sources, would be public transport links and the extra congestion that match day traffic could bring to the area.

The problem could be alleviated by proposals to bring the east London line to Croydon via Crystal Palace and an extension of Tramlink into the area.

It is understood Labour Croydon and Tory Bromley are on the verge of launching a cross-party drive to persuade the Mayor and Transport for London to make an extension of Tramlink from Birkbeck to Crystal Palace a priority.

• Bromley Council announced on Wednesday it has agreed in principle to transfer ownership of Crystal Palace Park including the stadium and sports centre, to the Greater London Authority (GLA).

Croydon Council leader Hugh Malyan said he hoped the transfer would help secure the long-term benefits of the park for athletes, swimmers and residents.

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Picture, training for coaches at the track - late summer(2003) , Ray Sacks

30/1/04 Last updated 30/1/04