The Rugby Football Union (RFU) have confirmed that they will conduct a review into the historical origins of the adopted English rugby anthem, ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’.
The anthem has been sung by English rugby fans since the late 1980s and in recent times, thousands of supporters at Twickenham have sung the song in what has become a common feature of international Test matches involving England.
However, with the Black Lives Matter movement currently dominating social conversations, the RFU have decided to review the “historical context” of the song as it was originally written by Wallace Willis, a freed Oklahoma slave in the 19th century.
An RFU spokesperson said:
“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 song was popularised in the early 20th century and during the 1960s when the Civil Rights movement took place.
In terms of its relationship with rugby, the song was first heard in 1987 during a Sevens tournament at Twickenham when Martin “Chariots” Offiah was playing.
Offiah was given the nickname, “Chariots”, as a play on words in relation to the famous film, ‘Chariots Of Fire’, which was about two runners competing at the 1924 Olympics.