Crusaders to keep name, despite backlash after NZ mosque attacks

Wellington (AFP) –


New Zealand rugby bosses have confirmed the Canterbury Crusaders will keep their name for at least another year, despite a backlash following the mosque attacks in the team's hometown of Christchurch in March.

"There's no intention and never has been any intention that the Crusaders name would change in 2020," New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey told Radio Sport on Saturday.

But, he added, it was still being debated whether the name should change long-term.

The nine-times champion Crusaders, the most successful side in Super Rugby, have faced criticism over their name since the March 15 shootings in which 51 Muslims were shot dead while at Friday prayers.

The Crusaders adopted the name when Super Rugby began in 1996, intending it as a nod to Christchurch's strong links to England.

However, there has been a growing opinion that the name is offensive because of its association with the crusades waged by Christians against Muslims in the medieval period.

A market research firm has been commissioned to review naming options, which Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said would take into account "all relevant opinions and, most importantly, we are committed to doing the right thing".

The review will examine two options -- dropping the Crusaders' name entirely or retaining it but revamping the brand.

They have already dropped their traditional pre-match entertainment at home games, which featured sword-brandishing horsemen dressed as crusading knights in chainmail and tunics adorned with crosses.

But Impey said they could not consider an immediate name change because of existing contracts, particularly with merchandise manufacturers.

"The process regarding the Crusaders name is set up, there's a sub-committee of the New Zealand board working with the Crusaders board, to see which of the two options will be chosen -- either a rebranded Crusaders name or a new name. There's a process under way to do that, we don't need to rush it," he said.

"But they will be the Crusaders in 2020."