The future of Crystal Palace National Sports Centre remains in severe doubt, despite assurances from London Mayor Sadiq Khan ©Getty Images

Despite the Mayor of London’s plans for a "comprehensive renovation" of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre the future of one of the world’s most affectionately regarded athletics stadiums remains in serious doubt.

Before major athletics events in London were switched to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, Crystal Palace - an atmospheric 19,000 capacity venue - was the epicentre for British athletics after the demise of the White City Stadium.

It hosted the annual Amateur Athletic Association Championships and, latterly, hosted the London Grand Prix for more than a decade.

But the stadium has since fallen into disrepair and had to be temporarily closed in November when it was discovered that the concrete pillars that held up the floodlights were unsafe.

They have since been removed, with local athletes who now use the stadium only able to train during daylight hours.

The Olympic-sized swimming pool and diving pool that were formerly a vital facility for elite athletes in the area and beyond have remained closed since March 2020 despite the promise by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, in November 2021 that he would "urgently contract a firm to plan and carry out the necessary renovation works, with the goal of maximising the time the pools are available for use".

While work has still yet to begin on the pools, plans to redevelop the site in South London for a total cost of up to £219 million ($264million/€248million) were approved by the Mayor in December, with the decision to "upgrade and consolidate" the Grade 2 listed main building that houses the sports centre and pools, which opened in 1964, The Guardian reported.

The decision was taken because the facility was seen as a "national asset" that would secure the site’s future "for decades to come".

It is understood that there are major concerns whether the stadium will be part of those plans after being neglected for so many years.

Plans to redevelop the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre have stalled despite support from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan ©Getty Images
Plans to redevelop the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre have stalled despite support from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan ©Getty Images

"I think the aspiration behind closed doors is to make it a track in the park, which would signal the end of top-class athletics there," John Powell, chair of Crystal Palace Sports Partnership, told The Guardian.

"At the moment you’ve got an indoor track with rats on it and pigeon excrement all over the place.

"There are trees growing out of the West Stand and then there was the floodlight farce, which meant no one can train there after dark now.

"At the moment the plans that I’m being made aware of don’t include an indoor track but do include the demolition of the Jubilee Stand.

"London is the only capital city in Europe that doesn’t have a dedicated athletics centre.

"Crystal Palace is the most accessible athletics stadium in the country so it’s a total joke what has been allowed to happen."

Khan has appointed Ben Woods, part of the team which delivered the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, as project director for the redevelopment and he is expected to press forward with draft plans for the reconstruction in the coming months after consulting with local residents and groups.

A spokesperson for Khan said: "The Mayor recognises that the National Sports Centre is a hugely important sporting and community facility for the capital and the country.

"That is why he is committed to the renovation of the site, and consultation with key stakeholders including sporting governing bodies and wider community groups is ongoing.

"The Mayor will be announcing a construction schedule in the next few months and looks forward to working with stakeholders to deliver an outstanding sporting venue.

"In the meantime, the Mayor looks forward to world-class athletics returning to the London Stadium for the first time in four years for the London Diamond League in July."

The 19,000-capacity Crystal Palace has hosted some of British athletics' finest moments ©Getty Images
The 19,000-capacity Crystal Palace has hosted some of British athletics' finest moments ©Getty Images

While the Diamond League will finally return to Stratford for the first time in four years this summer, UK Athletics held preliminary discussions last year with owners the London Legacy Development Corporation over ending its 50-year agreement to stage an annual event at the London Stadium.

A settlement payment of between £10 million ($12 million/€11.3 million) and £15 million ($18 million/€17 million) was said to have been proposed, which would enable UK Athletics to take its events to other arenas, such as Alexander Stadium in Birmingham or a renovated Crystal Palace.

But the latter course of action would require the additional support of the Mayor.

UK Athletics has not commented on any intentions it may have to leave the London Stadium.

Powell added: "This may just be dreamland but perhaps an alternative could be for West Ham to make a donation towards making Crystal Palace an athletics centre because it costs millions every year to convert the London Stadium for athletics every summer.

"But it’s City Hall who holds the purse strings so it’s City Hall who will make the decision.

"You just wonder if anything is ever going to happen because it’s been so long."