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The singing of Swing Low Sweet Chariot by English fans at games may become a thing of the past amid reports that many supporters are unaware that the song in fact is about American Slavery. The recent Black Lives Matter protests which has led to the toppling of a statue of a slave trader in Bristol have led organisations to examine links with slavery.
In a statement on Thursday the RFU said, “The RFU has stated we need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness”. The spokesperson acknowledged the song has been long part of the culture of rugby but said that “”We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions.”
The history books tell us that the first time the song was sung was at Twickenham in 1987. BBC Sport state that it occured at the Middlesex Tournament when Martin “Chariots” played. The song itself is thought to have been written in the 19th century by Wallace Willis who was a black slave. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, Rugby Union’s Weekly Podcast, Maro Itoje current England player said the background of the song was “complicated”.
RFU Chief Bill Sweeney has promised to increase diversity in the organisation. 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.”