The widely-recognised branding of the Super Rugby champion Crusaders is to be scrapped as the Christchurch-based franchise admits it is “no longer tenable” in the wake of the city’s mosque terror attacks.
New Zealand Rugby said on Wednesday the Crusaders’ contentious imagery would change, and the team’s name would come under close scrutiny.
The Crusaders name, which they’ve held since Super Rugby began in 1996, has become a source of public contention as it was the title given to Christian armies who fought against Muslims early in the last millennium.
On Wednesday, New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said there had been passionate feedback on both sides of the debate since the March 15 shootings that left 50 people dead.
Clearly the negative connotations of the franchise’s imagery of knights, horsemen and swords could not be ignored, he said.
The New Zealand Herald reports the Crusaders’ brand was built on a stylised version of mediaeval England, in a nod to Christchurch’s British heritage.
The club’s marketing over the past 23 years has incorporated the pageantry of knights and horsemen, and included symbols such as swords and banners.
Mr Tew said independent research company Research First would consider two options for the 2020 season: retaining the name but changing the branding, and a complete rebranding of the franchise.
“In the wake of the Christchurch attacks, it is apparent the symbolism the club has used, combined with the Crusaders name, is offensive to some in the community,” Mr Tew said.
“Maintaining the status quo in terms of the Crusaders name along with the current imagery of knights on horseback is, in our view, no longer tenable because of the association with the religious Crusades that has now been drawn. That is therefore not one of the options we will be considering.”
Saturday’s match against the Brumbies will be the first in Christchurch since the shootings. It will not feature the traditional pre-match entertainment of Crusaders horses and horsemen.
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mainsbridge said a significant number of people the franchise had approached linked the knights imagery with the religious Crusades.
“We see our role in this community as a unifying one and we are therefore committed to removing any part of our branding or match day entertainment that could be seen as divisive.”
Mr Mainsbridge said Muslim leaders had been consulted during discussions about the name and branding.
Research First will consult government agencies, community groups, commercial partners, players, coaches and fans.
The public will also be able to submit feedback to the review.