Crusaders to ditch ‘offensive’ name
THE most famous club name in world rugby could be changed due to the Christchurch terrorist massacre.
Nine-time Super Rugby champions the Crusaders have already decided to remove their traditional pre-match entertainment of a sword-wielding knight riding a horse, and are undertaking independent research to decide whether they will change their name from the 2020 season.
The Crusaders are an iconic brand in world rugby; the most successful southern hemisphere franchise of all time, having produced legendary All Blacks including Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Kieran Read.
But the terrorist attack on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch on March 15, that killed 50 people and wounded 50 more, has led to debate about the suitability of the Crusaders name given its links to the religious crusades, starting in the 11th century, that killed millions of people.
New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew said retaining both the Crusaders name, and imagery of knights and swords, was "untenable".
"In the wake of the Christchurch attacks, it is apparent that the symbolism the club has used, combined with the 'Crusaders' name, is offensive to some in the community due to its association with the religious Crusades between Christians and Muslims," Tew said.
"We are asking [marketing firm] Research First to look into two possible options moving forward - retaining the 'Crusaders' name but changing the branding and associated imagery; or undertaking a complete rebranding, including the name and all imagery.
"Maintaining the status quo in terms of the Crusaders name along with the current imagery of knights on horseback is, in our view, no longer tenable because of the association with the religious Crusades that has now been drawn. That is therefore not one of the options that we will be considering."
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said: "This is an event that rocked our community and brought some important issues to the fore. One of the contentious issues that has been brought up in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks is the name of our rugby team - the Crusaders.
"Because of our desire to be the best we can be and to support our community, we are treating the question around the appropriateness of our brand extremely seriously.
"We are committed to undertaking a thorough process, taking into account all relevant opinions and, most importantly, we are committed to doing the right thing."
The Crusaders title was chosen for the team for the inaugural Super Rugby season in 1996 as a nod to medieval England, given Christchurch's English heritage.
The team won the premiership in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2017 and 2018.
No other franchise has won more than three titles.
There will be no change of the Crusaders name this season, with the team seeking a title three-peat.