The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will not ban England fans from singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” but will educate them on the history of the song and its links with American slavery, the domestic governing body said.
The anthem, believed to have been written by a slave in the mid-19th century, became a mainstay with England supporters in the 1980s and the RFU launched a review into its use in June following the Black Lives Matter protests.
“The RFU has stated it will not ban ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ as it has a long-held place in rugby history,” the governing body said in a statement.
“However, the Union will use its social media and event audiences to proactively educate fans on the history and provenance of the song as well as providing platforms for diverse voices across the game.”
RFU chief Bill Sweeney no longer sings the song, while England head coach Eddie Jones said he would not attempt to stop fans at the Twickenham Stadium from doing so.
The RFU said it would release a short documentary on the song’s history which will feature prominent current and former Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) England players.
The RFU also said it is committed to improving diversity and inclusion and hopes to achieve a board composition of 30% female and 15% BAME by August 2022. The board of 14 has four women members and by 2022 there will be two BAME members.
RFU chair Andy Cosslett added: “Rugby Union has always prided itself as being a ‘game for all’ … we must now demonstrate beyond any doubt that we mean it.”