RFU chief Sweeney will no longer sing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney said he will no longer sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," but acknowledged it would be difficult for the RFU to ban it.

Last week, the RFU announced they would review the song's use. A spokesperson said: "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 sensitivities.

"We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions."

On Tuesday, Sweeney told the BBC he used to sing it in the 1970s, but wouldn't sing it anymore, and the RFU will focus on education and awareness.

"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."

The anthem, believed to have been written by a slave in the mid-19th century, became a mainstay with England fans in the 1980s, with its lyrics displayed all around Twickenham Stadium.

Martin Offiah, a former England international, has welcomed the review, but does not want the song banned. He told Sky Sports: "I have had a lot worse things sung at me back in the early and late 1980s playing rugby union and rugby league, rather than 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'.

"I don't think the song needs to be banned. I just think we are singing it with an enlightened view. Maybe we will have a stronger affinity with the BAME players who are playing the game on the field."

Meanwhile, Sweeney said the RFU cannot give up on women's rugby. Premier 15s, women's top level rugby, has been left without a major sponsor, and the current 2019-2020 season ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The women's game is absolutely critical." He said, "It's a major strategic priority for us. Clearly we're going to have fewer resources.

"So we've looked at our plans and asked what are the things we're going to have to pause for a while and what are the things we simply cannot give up on? Women's rugby falls squarely in that category."