The Rugby Football Union (RFU), the governing body for rugby union in England, has pledged to educate supporters on the anthems “origins or sensitivities” allowing them to make an “informed decision” as to whether to sing it. According to the Sunday Times the RFU is expected to strongly discourage the singing of the song, though there’s unlikely to be an outright ban.
In a statement the RFU said: “We need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness.”
Prince Harry, a keen rugby fan, is a patron of both the RFU and Rugby Football League.
England Rugby fans began singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ in 1987 to celebrate Martin Offiah, who is of Nigerian descent.
The first reported singing of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ took place whilst Offiah was playing at Twickenham in the 1987 Middlesex Sevens.
England fans could be discouraged from singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’
Rugby fans began singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ at Twickenham in 1987
Offiah was nicknamed “chariots” because of his speed on the pitch.
The song ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ was written by Wallace Willis, a freed slave from Oklahoma.
It is believed to refer to the conditions of bondage to which slaves are subjected, as well as their hopes for a better life.
A spokesman for Harry commented: “The duke is supportive of the comments that the RFU made this week regarding the review and he will follow the lead of the RFU on the matter.”
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Prince Harry with members of the South African rugby team after they won the 2019 rugby world cup
There are reports the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who currently live in Los Angeles, are planning to intervene on the subject of radical inequality highlighted by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement with Meghan refusing to rule out a move into politics.
Speaking to graduates from Immaculate Heart High School, which she attended as a student, earlier this month Meghan said: “I know that you know that black lives matter”.
The Black Lives Matter movement saw a global resurgence following the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
This led to large protests across the US and the wider world.
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England playing Ireland at the 2020 Six Nations championship
England rugby fans at the 2019 rugby world cup in Japan
Some of the earlier demonstrations, particularly in major US city, sparked serious disorder and rioting.
Offiah, who fans began singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ in tribute to, has opposed any move to ban the song.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live he said: “It is a very emotive song and stirs up feelings.
“That is probably something to do with its history and that history is probably not that well known by a lot of people in the UK.
“I know the RFU are planning to review this song and I champion reviewing it, but I wouldn’t support the banning of such a song.
“When you do try to ban things like that it makes the song more divisive.
“I was proud to be associated with the song but I do feel it is a time to educate England fans about the song. You would then be aware of what you are singing.”
Rugby in Britain is currently at a halt due to coronavirus
In Los Angeles both Meghan and Harry have taken part in coronavirus relief projects delivering food to the vulnerable.
Earlier Harry attended the 2019 Rugby world cup final in Japan on November 2 2019, which saw England defeated by South Africa by 12 points to 32.
Meghan has previously talked about the challenges of working as an actor whilst mixed race stating: “I wasn’t black enough for the black roles and I wasn’t white enough for the white roles, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn’t book a job.”