A group of city MPs – led by Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves – have called on Leeds United to cancel the club’s tour of Myanmar.
The club has come under fire since it announced it would play two friendly matches in Myanmar in May after the end of the Championship season.
The planned tour comes despite a global outcry over the regime’s human rights record. Almost 700,000 of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority have fled the country since August amid warnings from the United Nations that “ethnic cleansing” is rife.
But Leeds Labour MPs – including Hilary Benn, Richard Burgon, Fabian Hamilton and Alex Sobel – have written to United owner Andrea Radrizzani to express their concern.
In a letter they have told MR Radrizzani that by playing in Myanmar Leeds would be appear to be endorsing the regime.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said:
“Almost 700,000 people have been forced to flee the Myanmar Government’s brutal regime of terror and violence.
“Thousands of people have been killed and the human rights situation continues to deteriorate drastically.
“If Leeds United play in Myanmar, they will be sending a message that they are effectively endorsing the Government’s actions and delivering them a propaganda coup.
“The club has a moral responsibility to consider its actions very carefully and listen to the concerns from organisations like the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust and Amnesty International UK.
“The management at Leeds United should urgently rethink their decision and cancel plans to tour Myanmar as a matter of urgency.”
The letter can be read in full here:
In an open letter to fans yesterday, Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani wrote:
“I have spent over 10 years living in Asia and Myanmar is a country I have visited on many occasions. I am aware of the serious issues within the country, but I also know that it is a beautiful place filled with incredibly warm and welcoming people. It is somewhere very close to my heart.
“I also want to be clear that I am active in the Southeast Asia region with ongoing business practices that provide jobs and help to develop the local sports and media sectors. I have similar goals for Myanmar, along with many other British businesses that trade with and operate in the country presently.
“Football is extremely popular in Myanmar and I believe the game we all love has the power to help developing nations by bringing people together, especially young people. That is why I wanted to take the team on a post-season tour to play matches and run coaching clinics with children from the area.”