Tom Jones hit song 'Delilah' banned amidst Welsh rugby sexism scandal

The Welsh rugby team will no longer hear choirs singing Tom Jones 'Delilah' during the Six Nations tournament
The Welsh rugby team will no longer hear choirs singing Tom Jones 'Delilah' during the Six Nations tournament   -  Copyright  Getty
By David Mouriquand

Bye, bye, bye, Delilah…

The 2023 Six Nations Championship kicks off this weekend and it has been announced that the popular song by Tom Jones, ‘Delilah’, will not be performed at the rugby tournament due to its problematic lyrics.

The hit song by the Welsh crooner has been a regular feature at Welsh sporting events, and the decision to drop it comes amid allegations of sexism, bullying and racism at the Welsh Rugby Union.

’Delilah’, which was first released in 1968, contains lyrics that are “problematic and upsetting to some supporters,'' read a statement issued on behalf of the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union).

The song is about a jealous lover seeing a woman, Delilah, with another man. One line reads: “I crossed the street to her house and she opened the door / She stood there laughing, I felt the knife in my hand / And she laughed no more.''

It will not be sung before Wales' match against Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday 4 February or at any future games.

“Delilah will not feature on the playlist for choirs for rugby internationals at Principality Stadium,'' read the statement from the venue.

“We have previously sought advice from subject matter experts on the issue of censoring the song and we are respectfully aware that it is problematic and upsetting to some supporters because of its subject matter.”

“The WRU removed the song from its halftime entertainment and music playlist during international matches in 2015. Guest choirs have also more recently been requested not to feature the song during their pre-match performances and throughout games. The WRU condemns domestic violence of any kind.''

Tom Jones, whose 1968 song 'Delilah' has been banned from Welsh stadiumsVMusic

The decision follows a week in which Steve Phillips, the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, was forced to resign, following allegations of misogyny and racism within the organisation.

Without directly referencing the decision, 21-year-old Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit wrote on Twitter: "All the things they need to do and they do that first..."

Indeed, the decision feels like a flimsy plaster on a gaping wound, considering the allegations of a “toxic culture” at the heart of the WRU.

These allegations were aired in a television documentary last week, resulting in the resignation of Phillips. An independent taskforce is to be set up to tackle the allegations, with Sport Wales – a Welsh government-funded body – advising on the remit of the panel.

Also no news on whether other organisations will follow suit with regards to stadium songs with dubious lyrics…

In 2020, England's RFU (Rugby Football Union) reviewed the context of England's rugby anthem – ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' - amid the Black Lives Matter protests. 

The song written by freed slave Wallace Willis has its roots in American slavery, and many claim that the song references the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by abolitionists to help slaves escape to the north of the US and Canada where slavery was illegal.

Public domain
Sheet music for Swing Low Sweet ChariotPublic domain

It was adopted by English rugby fans in the 1980s, and critics say that it is offensive in the extreme to trivialize a slavery song by adopting it as a sporting anthem - especially considering England’s pivotal role in transporting slaves to America. The far-right EDL (English Defence League) also use the song as a marching song to promote their racist views.

However, the RFU didn't ban the problematic singing of the song but issued the following statement:

"The Swing Low, Sweet Chariot song has long been part of the culture of rugby and is sung by many who have no awareness of its origins or sensitivities. We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions."

Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson also stated that the song shouldn't be banned and echoed the RFU’s statement by saying that it should be used as a launchpad to teach people about its meaning.

The Six Nations Championship begins in Cardiff on Saturday 4 February when Wales host Ireland. The tournament lasts until Saturday 18 March.