BY THEREDNOW STAFF
The Rugby Football Union has said it is conducting a review into fans singing the song ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, due to its slavery origins.
The RFU admitted to The Guardian that many of the England fans who sing the song at games are unaware of its origins.
Earlier this week, England star Maro Itoje said the song has a ‘complicated’ background as he called for the game to be ‘more open to all’.
He told The Daily Mail: “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone at Twickenham is singing it with malicious intent, but the background of that song is complicated.
“The need is to make rugby more open to all. When I first started watching rugby – 2006 or so – compared to where we are now, I think we have moved forward. However, there is more to go.”
Now, the RFU has told The Guardian it will be reviewing the singing of the song, with a spokesperson saying: “The RFU has stated we need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness.
“The ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ song has long been part of the culture of rugby and is sung by many who have no awareness of its origins or sensitivities. We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions.”
The RFU did not rule out urging fans not to sing the song when matches resume post-lockdown, The Guardian reports.
According to the BBC, the song was first sung at Twickenham in the last 1980s when Martin ‘Chariots’ Offiah was playing in the 1987 Middlesex Sevens tournament. But its origins are based in slavery and is thought to have been written by a slave named Wallace Willis.
Earlier this month, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney has spoken out vowing to ensure there is more diversity in the organisations. He said:“We have undertaken some very good initiatives at the grassroots level to encourage more diverse participation however, that in itself is not enough.
“We need to do more to achieve diversity across all areas of the game including administration.”