Christchurch Rugby Team To Change Name Out Of Respect For Muslim Community

Based in Christchurch, the Canterbury Crusaders are one of the greatest teams in world rugby. But their name appears likely to change.

In the 23 completed years of the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby competition, the Crusaders have won an incredible nine titles -- and yep, they're in their familiar position at the top of the table this year, too.

But in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, the team's name and logo have been called into question.

That's because the name references a series of religious wars in the 11th-13th centuries -- 'The Crusades' -- in which Christians attacked Muslims in an attempt to regain control of the holy land.

The Canterbury Crusaders first flagged a possible name change two days after the terror attack, but conceded it was too soon for the necessary discussion.

"Emotions are very raw and real at the moment. There is the need for this community to wrap our support around those who are most affected by Friday's events, and that is the immediate focus for the Crusaders team," a message from the team said.

Three days later, the Crusaders responded to an influx of public opinion, saying the matter was still being considered.

Now, it looks like they'll almost certainly make the change, based on the recommendations of an independent research group.

"This is an event that rocked our community and brought some important issues to the fore," the Crusaders said in a statement.

"One of the contentious issues that has been brought up in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks is the name of our rugby team -- the Crusaders.

"When the first year of Super Rugby kicked off in 1996, the Crusaders title was chosen for the side representing the provincial unions from the top half of the South Island and the brand was built on a stylised version of medieval England, in a nod to the English heritage of Christchurch.

"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."

But as New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew points out:

In the wake of the Christchurch attacks, it is apparent that the symbolism the club has used, combined with the ‘Crusaders’ name, is offensive to some in the community due to its association with the religious Crusades between Christians and Muslims.

The Crusaders acknowledged that public opinion on the issue was divided, and said there were two likely options:

  • The first is retaining the Crusaders name but changing the branding and associated imagery.
  • The second is a complete rebranding, including the name and all imagery.

"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," Tew said.

Whatever happens in the future, the Crusaders name and logos will not change this season.