THE CITY OF LEEDS last week awarded its highest civic honour to Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield, giving both the former Leeds Rhinos stars the freedom of Leeds “in recognition of their heroic campaigning and fundraising for all those affected by motor neurone disease (MND).”
Burrow, who was diagnosed with MND in late 2019, was at Leeds Civic Hall last Wednesday evening to receive the honour at a special full meeting of Leeds City Council, although Sinfield’s commitments in his new coaching role with the England rugby union team meant he was unable to attend the event in person. Instead Bob Bowman, chief executive of the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, was present to accept the award on his behalf.
The leader of the Council, Councillor James Lewis, moved the motion for the two former players to be recognised for the “honour and distinction brought to the city by their outstanding sporting achievements, their charitable work with the Motor Neurone Disease Association and support to the wider MND community”.
The motion was seconded by Councillor Dan Cohen on behalf of the council’s Conservative group, with supporting statements following from Councillor Chris Howley (Liberal Democrats), Councillor Robert Finnigan (Morley Borough Independents), Councillor David Blackburn (Green Party) and Councillor Mark Dobson (Garforth & Swillington Independents).
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Robert W Gettings MBE JP, then invited council chief executive Tom Riordan to read a ‘scroll of admission’ – a formal piece of text confirming Rob and Kevin as honorary freemen.
Previous recipients include Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, playwright Alan Bennett and members of the famed Leeds United side of the 1960s and 1970s.
“It feels amazing to get the freedom of Leeds – I am honoured to get this award,” said Burrow, who was accompanied by his wife Lindsey and his children.
“I am blown away by the support of Leeds, both as a Rhino and since I got news of my diagnosis.
“Leeds as a city shows it cares just by people stopping to ask how I feel. To the guys who fundraise, to the guys shoving money in my pocket towards the centre in Leeds, they all mean the same – people of Leeds take a bow.”
This article comes from this week’s issue of League Express. You can take out a subscription by going to https://www.totalrl.com/league-express/