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England rugby boss will no longer sing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'

However, Bill Sweeney says it would be ‘very difficult’ to ban the song.

A general view of England fans at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
A general view of England fans at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Image: David Davies

RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION chief executive Bill Sweeney has said he will no longer sing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ as the body reviews the song’s use by England fans.

Last week British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had no problems with supporters singing ‘Swing Low’, a song with its roots in American slavery.

And Sweeney said Tuesday it would be “very difficult” for the RFU to ban it at Twickenham.

Instead officials plan to concentrate on “education and awareness” following the global Black Lives Matter protests.

“I used to sing it a lot in the 70s, I won’t sing it anymore,” Sweeney told BBC Radio Five Live.

I personally would choose not to sing it. If there was somebody next to me singing it then I wouldn’t look at them and think they were racist.

“I would think they don’t feel it’s an issue. You need a bit of common sense and a bit of responsibility here.”

The song, reportedly written by an American slave in the 19th century, was first heard at Twickenham in 1987 when aimed at Martin Offiah, nicknamed “Chariots” after the Oscar-winning film “Chariots of Fire”.

bill-sweeney-file-photo Bill Sweeney. Source: Steven Paston

It was then directed at Chris Oti, another black player, when he scored a hat-trick against Ireland the following year.

Offiah has backed the RFU review but does not want the song banned either.

Sweeney added: “It’s very difficult to ban a song when you’ve got 82,000 people in a stadium and you say you’re not allowed to sing this song.

“If anything we think that might make it even more divisive because you’ll get really strong points of view either side.

“So we think the way to go is education, awareness, understanding the origins of the song and you make a choice whether you think it’s appropriate to sing it or not.”

 © – AFP 2020

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