Super Rugby 2019: Crusaders, NZ Rugby probe brand after Christchurch shootings

The Crusaders Super Rugby brand seems set to change, after last month's tragic Christchurch mosque shootings.

NZ Rugby and the Crusaders franchise have engaged outside consultants to oversee the changes, with NZR chief executive Steve Tew describing the imagery as "no longer tenable".

After a lone gunman killed 50 victims at two mosques in the Crusaders' home city, pressure has mounted to drop a name that may have seemed like a good idea when the competition began in 1996, but now appeared inappropriate.

Perhaps the most overt symbolism attached to the brand involves fully costumed knights charging around the field, brandishing swords at spectators before home games.

"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 Crusaders between Christians and Muslims," says Tew.

"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 says the Research First company will look into just two options - keeping the 'Crusaders' name, but changing the brand and imagery, or completely rebranding the franchise, including its name.

"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 Crusaders that has now been drawn," he says.

"That is, therefore, not one of the options that we will be considering."

The Crusaders horsemen will not feature in pre-game entertainment, when the two-time defending Super Rugby champions host the Brumbies on Saturday.

"The team behind the Crusaders horses fully understand and support the decision to remove the horses from the pre-match entertainment at this time," says horsemen manager Mark Donald.

"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 admirable since March 15."

Any lasting changes to the brand would not take affect this season, but would be introduced for the 2020 season.


Join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Crusaders vs Brumbies Super Rugby clash.