WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The Canterbury Crusaders will retain their name for the next Super Rugby season at least but their logo will be changed following an outcry in the wake of a mass shooting in Christchurch almost three months ago, the team has said.
The March 15 shooting at two mosques in the team’s home city killed 51 people and prompted calls for change with their branding and name, which are associated with religious wars between Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages.
The Crusaders branding includes a logo of a sword-wielding knight and the team, the most successful in Super Rugby with nine titles, undertook an independent review to determine if there was mood for change.
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said on Saturday the initial research indicated there were “divided views” on the team name and logo and said they would conduct a full review on a potential rebrand.
“Any changes recommended by that review will be announced by the end of 2019 and come into effect in the 2021 season,” the team said in a media release.
“In the meantime, the Crusaders name will be retained for the remainder of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, but an interim change to the logo will come into effect for next season, with the removal of the knight and sword image.”
New Zealand rugby chief executive Steve Tew, a former Crusaders boss, said it was appropriate to remove the medieval imagery but a total rebrand would take time that could impact commercial contracts for next season.
“The practical execution of a name or brand change takes significant time,” Tew said.
“So even if we wanted to, no significant change would be feasible prior to the next Super Rugby season when you take into account obligations to commercial contracts that are linked to the existing brand, merchandise, and lead times on apparel.
“We have therefore concluded that we are better to pause our thinking on the team name at this point and instead allow that to become one of the outcomes of a full brand review.”
NZR chairman Brent Impey had earlier told New Zealand’s Radio Sport that changing the name for next season would be complicated.
“The reality is that Adidas have got to make jerseys, there’s merchandising and that sort of stuff,” Impey said.
“You can’t just change the name of a professional team when there are existing contracts. So definitely not. There’s no intention and never has been any intention that the Crusaders name would change in 2020.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Andrew Both/Nick Mulvenney