England fans’ use of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is reportedly under review after growing awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement in UK sports in recent weeks. The song, which has links with slavery, was apparently first heard at Twickenham in 1987.

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Martin “Chariots” Offiah was appearing at the Middlesex 7s at that time and the song has been regularly sung on the Test rugby terraces ever since Chris Oti scored a hat-trick of tries for England versus Ireland the following year. 

Written in the mid-19th century by Wallace Willis, who was a black American slave, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is now under review at the RFU after a spokesperson admitted the England rugby organisation needed to grow awareness about the song’s origins. 

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Speaking in The Guardian, an RFU spokesperson said: “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 its sensitivities. We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions.”

Race has become a topic in English rugby in recent weeks following the protests that broke out in the United States following the death of George Floyd during a police arrest in Minneapolis. Prop Ellis Genge revealed that non-white England players and coach Eddie Jones were subjected to racial abuse during the 2018 tour to South Africa.

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Maro Itoje has also spoken about the need for the RFU to do more in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in England if rugby truly wants to become an inclusive sport.    

“A lot of these people, a lot of these communities – I’m talking about black communities, I’m talking about Asian communities within the UK – rugby is not really a thing in their minds,” said Itoje. 

 

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