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Now Leeds MPs urge the club to cancel Myanmar Tour
Friday, 27th Apr 2018 13:33 by Tim Whelan

The pressure on Andrea Radrizzani to cancel the controversial tour is increasing, with opposition now coming in from Parliament and Human Rights groups as well as Leeds United’s own supporters. But for the time being the Leeds Chairman is sticking to his guns.

All five Labour MPs with Leeds constituencies have now written to Andrea to express concern over the trip. 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.” Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has also asked the club to cancel the trip.

However, Radrizzani has yet to show any signs of backing down, and issued a further statement on Wednesday to respond to the criticism. “It has never been my intention, nor that of the club, to get involved in a political debate in Myanmar. However, if because of the tour we further highlight the ongoing serious issues in certain areas of the country, then maybe that is positive thing. We simply want to use sport to do some good.”

“I am proud to be active in another region in south-east Asia where I support via ‘Play For Change’, a local NGO (non-governmental organisation) in Nepal, in providing sports and educational activities to over 4,000 underprivileged children. We can’t spread our values by turning our backs, we can only do this by engaging. We will go to Myanmar to share the famous values and ethos of Leeds United Football Club.”

I’m sure our beloved chairman didn’t want to get involved in a political debate. This trip was only ever going to be about furthering his business interests, and he must have been hoping that no one would notice the political implications of touring a country with such a brutal regime. As for highlighting the serious issues, does he really think that nobody in Britain would have heard about the human rights abuses if Leeds hadn’t planned to go to Myanmar?

It’s undoubtedly laudable to spend some time with underprivileged children, but it’s a safe bet that none of them will be Rohingya refugees. And if Radrizzani is so proud of his links with an NGO based in Nepal, why aren’t we going to that country instead?

There never has been any moral or footballing reason to undertake this trip at the end of the season, so let’s just do the decent thing and get it cancelled.

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