The Crusaders have quietly made changes to their website to erase certain phrases about the history of their name.

Last week, the Crusaders and NZ Rugby announced that it will be retaining its name for the remainder of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, while it undergoes a full review of its name and brand in the wake of the Christchurch shootings.

An interim change to the franchise's logo will come into effect for next season, with the removal of the knight and sword image.

Apart from that, the Crusaders have also apparently attempted to change the history behind the name.

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Jehan Casinader, a reporter for TVNZ's Sunday, pointed out that the Crusaders had made changes to their website about the history of their team name.

"Oh look! @CrusadersRugby quietly changed their webpage about the history of their team name, to get rid of the stuff about, um, the "English nature of Christchurch"," he wrote on Twitter.

"That info was correct/relevant/acceptable in January. Now it's gone. No team name change, though -- even in 2020."

Casinader included two screenshots of the Crusaders website, one from an archived version in January and a recent one.

The previous version of the website mentioned the "English nature of the city of Christchurch" and "Christchurch's British heritage" as reasons behind the name.

However, the new version has no mention of "British heritage", with the website now stating the Crusaders name "reflected the crusading spirit of Canterbury rugby".

Followers had mixed reaction to the changes with one saying "this really is not good enough" while another called it a "non-issue".

Crusaders respond

Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge says the changes to the website have been part of an ongoing process in reviewing the Crusaders brand.

"We've been going through the process of making a number of changes to our website, following the questions that have been raised about the Crusaders brand," Mansbridge said in a statement to the Herald.

"We have never denied that part of the branding when it was introduced in 1996 was a nod to the English heritage of Christchurch.

"Because of the link that has now been made with the medieval Crusades however, we have made changes to make it clear that those religious Crusades are not what we represent and nor was that ever the intention.

"That explains the removal of references and imagery that could allow that unintended link to be made."

Mansbridge also added that the links to "the English heritage in Christchurch" was removed because they believe it is less relevant now.

"It is clear to me, even if you put the events of March 15 to one side, that links to the English heritage in Christchurch are less relevant to this brand now than what they may once have been.

"For example we represent the top of the South Island, not just Christchurch, and our team is diverse and multi-cultural, not just European and not just from Christchurch."

The Crusaders Horses. Photo / Photosport
The Crusaders Horses. Photo / Photosport

What's in a name?

The source of the controversy came from the fact that the Crusaders name evokes the historical crusades, the series of religious and political wars between Christians and Muslims fought in the medieval period.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on 15 March, a leading far-right expert told the Herald the imagery and symbolism used by the Crusaders rugby team could be feeding into white supremacist and anti-Muslim ideology, and is an example of the country's "naivety".

"In the wake of what's happened, you look at the symbolism that the Crusaders use, you look at those guys on horses, I mean it's unequivocally reflecting the crusades and one side in those crusades," Massey University professor of sociology Paul Spoonley told the Herald.

"[The accused] is certainly aware of his history and has called upon that history.

"The white supremacists and the extreme right certainly refer back on occasion to the crusades. That's part of the history that they want to call upon in order to remind people that there is a global struggle against Islam."

Last week's announcement – to keep their name for next season while changing some of its imagery – was met with backlash from both sides of the debate, with fans quickly responding on social media.

After the announcement, Mansbridge said the research findings would inform the next steps in the process, but what it wouldn't do is seek to change the franchise's history.

"We will go into the brand review with open minds ... but no matter what the outcome of that exercise is, one thing that we will never seek to change or erase is our history.

"This club has a very proud history and celebrating that is always going to be an important part of our brand story. We will continue to honour our past as we look to the future and what that may hold."

The recent change of its website, however, could suggest otherwise.

Mansbridge says the changes to the website doesn't mean the Crusaders are erasing its "proud history".

"We are reviewing our brand, but that does not mean that we are seeking to erase the proud history of this team, that includes 9 Super Rugby titles; the way we have represented this community on and off the field in times of adversity; the way we connect with our fans and aim to inspire our youngest supporters; the way we support our Golden Charities in practical ways."