Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby have jointly announced the Crusaders horsemen will not feature again in the 2019 season and have cast doubts over their long term future because the imagery associated with the Crusaders name is “no longer tenable”.
The announcement comes alongside the news that the two organisations have engaged an independent research company to seek feedback and provide recommendations on the Crusaders team name and brand.
The pressure for the Crusaders to change their name emerged in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings because of the centuries-old sensitivity over the history of the Crusades, which were bloody medieval conflicts between Muslims and Christians.The work will be undertaken by independent research company, Research First.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew gave a strong hint the pre-match entertainment of the Crusaders horseman would not return post 2019 when he 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”.
“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,” Tew said.
“We are asking Research First to look into two possible options moving forward – retaining the ‘Crusaders’ name but changing the branding and associated imagery; or undertaking a complete rebranding, including the name and all imagery,” 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 that we will be considering.
“One thing that has become very clear in the last two weeks is that there are divided opinions on the best way forward for the brand. We understand and appreciate the passionate feedback that we are receiving on both sides of the conversation, and at this stage we are committed to keeping an open mind until the independent research has been done,” Tew said.
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said the terror attacks that rocked the community Christchurch community have “brought some important issues to the fore”.
“One of the contentious issues that have been brought up in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks is the name of our rugby team – the Crusaders,” Mansbridge said.
“Because of our desire to be the best we can be and to support our community, we are treating the question around the appropriateness of our brand extremely seriously. We are committed to undertaking a thorough process, taking into account all relevant opinions and, most importantly, we are committed to doing the right thing.”
Manager of the Crusaders horsemen Mark Donald is supportive of the decision.
“The team behind the Crusaders horses fully understands and supports the decision to remove the horses from the pre-match entertainment at this time. This is an appropriate response in difficult circumstances, given the questions that have been raised about the Crusaders brand.
“We realise that some fans will be disappointed, but hope that people will pause to consider the wider context and continue to show the empathy, tolerance and unity that New Zealanders have displayed so admirably since March 15,” Donald said.
Saturday night’s match against the Brumbies will be the Crusaders first match in Christchurch since the terror attacks.
A moment’s silence will be observed to honour the victims.
Christchurch group The Healing Song will perform a rendition of Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Welcome Home’.
The Crusaders match against the Highlanders – that was due to take place in Dunedin on March 16 – was cancelled as a mark of respect.
The Crusaders then lost to the Waratahs 12-20 before bouncing back to beat the Hurricanes 32-8 in Wellington last Friday night.