RFU considered selling Twickenham, bidding for 50% of Wembley

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) evaluated the possibility of selling Twickenham and offering to buy 50% of Wembley as an option instead of redeveloping their stadium.

According to a leaked 69-page blueprint outlining the redevelopment of Twickenham -- a plan seen by ESPN -- the RFU examined selling Twickenham and then investing in Wembley. This was called the "leave" option in a plan called "Twickenham Stadium Masterplan Programme," detailed by consultants in 2023.

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The RFU Board voted against this option and so the recommended "preferred way forward" (PWF) in the masterplan sees the RFU renovate Twickenham over the next six years. The total project would cost around £663 million, one which the report calls "unaffordable," so more pressing redevelopment could be prioritised.

"While the Masterplan Programme Team has focused efforts on developing the PWF 'Stay' option and as such not sought to advance the 'Leave' option, whereby the RFU would explore the potential to dispose of Twickenham Stadium and purchase a 50% share of Wembley Stadium," the plan read.

"This was based on a Board-approved recommendation [March 2023] to retain the Leave option as a reserve but defer formal engagement with the Football Association and financial investment until further feasibility clarity is obtained with the Stay option and licensing authority views."

The masterplan looked at possibilities around redeveloping all four stands, the roof and surrounding infrastructure. The report suggests any redevelopment could take place between the 2027 and 2028 men's Six Nations tournaments.

Twickenham has been the home of English rugby since 1909, and matchday income accounts for 85% of the RFU's income.

The RFU on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to developing Twickenham.

"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," an RFU spokesperson said.

"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 ten years.

"The RFU Board has not agreed any new re-development plans. However, as you would expect all options will be thoroughly considered as part of a long-term strategy.

"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.

"The RFU is focussed on continuing to develop Twickenham Stadium. Previous considerations looking at the viability of moving to alternative sites have been rejected. We do not anticipate major stadium works starting before 2027."