The RFU have stated it will not ban Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, claiming it has a long-held place in England rugby history. 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.
Ahead of the first England game since lockdown, the October 25 Twickenham meeting with the Barbarians, the RFU will release a short-form documentary on the history of Swing Low.
It will feature prominent current and former BAME England players as well as Josephine Wright, professor of music and black studies at The College of Wooster (Ohio) in the USA. The film will debut on England Rugby channels on October 23 and it will also feature in matchday content when fans are allowed back into stadiums.
A statement from English Rugby read: “The RFU is committed to using its channels to listen, educate and provide a platform for a wide range of diverse voices across the game.
“The RFU is also working with all partners to ensure diversity across its content to ensure equal prominence of women and BAME participants; the recent England Umbro kit launch being widely praised evidence of this strategy in action.
The RFU has announced its progress and plans to improve diversity and inclusion in rugby.
The plan includes a commitment to improve D&I across four key areas of the game:
1?? Fans, Followers and Partners
2?? Game Play
3?? Staff & Board
4?? Game Administration
More details ??
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 8, 2020
Research conducted with 4,400 people from the rugby community concluded that 74 per cent of people, rising to 84 per cent of those from a BAME background, agreed that it was important for England Rugby to actively educate fans on the origins of Swing Low while 69 per cent of respondents said the song shouldn’t be banned.
The findings regarding Swing Low, Sweet Chariot were part of plans unveiled on Thursday to improve diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in rugby.
RFU chair Andy Cosslett said: “The RFU needs to step up its efforts to improve diversity and inclusion across our game. We are living through testing times, but this will not deter us from grasping the opportunity to better reflect the society we live in.
“We have worked hard to understand our starting point and are now underway with a plan that we are confident will produce big improvements in our diversity and inclusion over the next few years. Rugby Union has always prided itself as being a ‘game for all’…we must now demonstrate beyond any doubt that we mean it.”
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