The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has ditched plans to sell Twickenham and buy shares in Wembley despite not having the funds to complete a full revamp.

The Rugby Football Union has scrapped a bold plan to sell Twickenham and acquire a 50% stake in Wembley from the Football Association, which has just undergone a revamp of its own ahead of a busy 2024. 

Instead, the focus has shifted to a £663m renovation project for its existing stadium, despite reports suggesting that the organisation doesn’t have the funds to complete it. 

Twickenham has been the home of English rugby since 1909 and has been described as “our cash cow”, by Bill Sweeney, RFU’s Chief Executive, with match days at Twickenham driving 85% of the RFU’s revenues.

Last year, the organisation created a plan to revamp the stadium, which included an option to leave for Wembley. However, the RFU has now decided to revamp its long-term home, with costs totaling £663m. 

The RFU has aimed for work to begin on the stadium between the end of the 2027 Six Nations and the start of the following year’s championship, aiming to complete the work by 2031.

Proposed improvements include upgrading all four stands, reducing minimum capacity to 80,000 for rugby events, while also improving the roof, parking, and moving RFU offices. 

Additionally, the RFU aims to enhance transport links, addressing the strain on Twickenham railway station and matchday overcrowding, with potential options including riverboat services to improve transportation for fans attending matches.

An RFU spokesperson stated: “Our long-term masterplan for ­Twickenham Stadium is being developed to ensure England’s national rugby stadium stays up to date, is compliant with all relevant regulations, provides the best possible experiences for fans, and continues to generate revenue for reinvestment into the community and professional game.

“Work will be undertaken over the next 12 months to consider next stage designs and assess what interventions might take place and when within the existing stadium footprint over the next 10 years. The RFU board has not agreed to any new ­redevelopment plans. However, as you would expect, all options will be thoroughly considered as part of a long-term strategy.”

However, the RFU has acknowledged that it does not have the necessary funds to complete the full redevelopment and has announced a plan to prioritise the most important aspects, with around £300m available to the organisation.

“As plans are further developed, the RFU board and council will be fully consulted and engaged in the due diligence and approval process, this would include any potential funding sources. 

“As per the RFU constitution, if borrowing of over £150m was needed, council members’ views and approval would be required. We do not anticipate major stadium works starting before 2027.”

Not everyone involved in the sport agrees with the plan to spend money on improving the stadium, due to concerns that investing heavily in the stadium could be perceived as inappropriate, given the need for investment in both professional and grassroots rugby.

Despite this opinion, in the RFU’s latest annual report, Chief Financial Officer Sue Day emphasised the necessity of renovating Twickenham to “safeguard the future revenues needed to invest back into the game.”

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