Leeds Utd games in Myanmar denied FO'¨support

Leeds United owner Andrea RadrizzaniLeeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani
Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani
Leeds United asked the Foreign Office (FCO) to issue a statement supportive of the football club's highly controversial trip to Myanmar but the request was turned down, official emails released to The Yorkshire Post show.

On April 24, the day the club announced its tour to the south-east Asian country, where the regime has been accused by the United Nations of carrying out ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims and creating a refugee crisis, a Leeds United representative telephoned a Foreign Office official and complained about “frustrating” criticism.

In an email released by the FCO under Freedom of Information laws but with the names of individuals redacted, the official said that the Leeds United representative asked if the Government department could issue a statement recognising that players, coaches and staff intended to conduct outreach work in the community during the trip last month.

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But the official explained that doing so would not be in line with Foreign and Commonwealth office FCO policy.

Leeds United was branded “morally corrupt” by Shadow Sports Minister Rosena Allin-Khan for travelling to Myanmar, formally known as Burma, while a group of five Leeds MPs urged the club to reconsider as the “deeply inappropriate trip”.

Senior Labour MP John Mann and Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords Lord Newby – both Leeds United suppoorters – also criticised the tour.

And Amnesty International branded it “odd”.

The official’s email, addressed to other unnamed people at the FCO, reads: “I took a call this afternoon from [REDACTED] at Leeds United Football Club.

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“He said Leeds United had already been receiving criticism following their announcement this morning of their tour to Burma in May.

“It was frustrating as they intended to get out into the community and try to connect with ordinary people and do some good.

“Could the FCO issue a statement recognising this and encouraging them?

“I said that while we had a policy of promoting responsible business by British firms in Burma, we didn’t normally issue statements about individual companies’ plans. He accepted this.”

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The Leeds United representative also told the official that he had been aware of the political situation in Myanmar before announcing the post-season tour. A small number of Leeds United supporters visited Myanmar to watch the matches.