Exeter Chiefs replace Native-American branding with new Celtic logo

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Nigel French/PA</span>
Photograph: Nigel French/PA

Exeter Chiefs say they have received a “very positive” response to the decision to replace their Native American-themed branding with a new club logo from this summer. The club’s “visual identity” will now be based on a local Celtic chief inspired by the Dumnonii tribe, who were based in Devon, Cornwall and part of Somerset in the Iron Age.

The change, as confirmed by the Guardian in November, follows criticism of the club’s existing branding and accusations of “cultural appropriation”. Now, in common with several north American professional sports teams, the club’s badge is being revised and will bear the helmeted image of a Celtic warrior, a nod to the heritage of the surrounding region.

According to the club, the rebrand reflects the Celtic helmets worn in and around 300 BC which were inspired by the La Tène art style popular in Britain at that time. The city of Exeter was previously known as Isca Dumnoniorum which translates as “Watertown of the Dumnonii”.

Related: Tom O’Flaherty’s hat-trick inspires Exeter to thumping win over Glasgow

The “Chiefs” moniker, however, is to remain unaltered. West Country rugby sides have long dubbed their first team “the Chiefs”, with Exeter having done so as far back as 1908. Discussions are ongoing regarding other associated branding, including the Wigwam Bar and the totem pole which stands in the reception area at Sandy Park, but the Guardian understands they are also poised to be replaced.

Exeter’s current branding has been in existence since 1999 but the Chiefs’ chairman, Tony Rowe, said the club’s board had now decided it was time for a change which, he estimated, will cost in the region of £500,000.

“We are excited to welcome in the next era of rugby within Exeter,” said Rowe. “As a rugby club we have been willing to listen, we have consulted far and wide, and now we are ready to invoke change. This is a new direction for our great club, but equally it’s an exciting vision that I’ve no doubt will propel us onwards and upwards over time.”

Rowe had previously told the Guardian that he felt the club’s membership would resist any changes but Exeter did retire their regular mascot Big Chief in 2020 after accepting it could be viewed as disrespectful.

Some are already comparing the facial features of the Celtic warrior to, variously, Jack Nowell, the 12th-century sultan Saladin and the TV presenter Rylan Clark but the pressure group Exeter Chiefs for Change has welcomed the switch. “Our faith in the club has been restored today and we are overwhelmed with excitement at the new identity that celebrates Devon’s own rich history and gives us even more reason to be proud of our club and our region,” said a spokesperson. “Indigenous peoples have long said they are not respected nor honoured by the Native imagery … so we’re relieved those concerns have been listened to and acted upon.”

The social media platform TikTok, meanwhile, has signed a four-year deal to partner with the Six Nations. The women’s tournament, which has not previously had a title sponsor, will now be known as the TikTok Six Nations. To date there have been more than 5.1bn views of rugby content on TikTok.

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