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RFU opt to refurbish Twickenham

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) is set to pursue a major redevelopment of Twickenham Stadium after it emerged that the governing body opted against approaching the Football Association (FA) about sharing Wembley.

The Times and the Guardian have reported that the RFU had considered selling Twickenham and buying a 50% share of Wembley, which is owned by the FA. This option will not be explored further, with the RFU instead turning its attention to revamping Twickenham, home of the England rugby union team since 1909.

Both The Times and the Guardian have seen the RFU’s in-depth plans to redevelop Twickenham. The project is slated to cost £663m, but the RFU is said to believe that this would be unaffordable. As a result, around £300m will initially be made available to address more pressing aspects of the redevelopment.

Work on the stadium would begin after the 2027 Six Nations and it is hoped the new-look venue would be ready by 2031. The capacity of the stadium would be reduced from 82,500 to a minimum of 80,000.

The project would include more legroom for supporters, a fully “reprofiled” lower tier with a modern rail system, a partial replacement of the stadium roof, more women’s toilets, and renovated concourses and car parks.

Plans have also been outlined to improve accessibility to Twickenham through new alternative walking, cycling, rail and bus shuttle services. Other suggestions include fans travelling to the stadium by river boats, electric scooters or “driverless pods”.

According to The Times, the FA has not received any offer from the RFU about buying a share in Wembley. The FA previously considered selling Wembley to US businessman Shahid Khan, owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, back in 2018, but the deal fell through after Khan stated that his £900m offer had been more divisive than expected.

In a statement to The Times, the RFU said: “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 ten years.

“The RFU board has not agreed any new redevelopment 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 statement added that previous considerations looking at the “viability of moving to alternative sites” have been rejected. Work on Twickenham is not anticipated to begin before 2027.

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