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Freedom of Leeds honour for local heroes Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield

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Posted 22nd December 2022

The courage, commitment and inspirational strength of character shown by local heroes Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield in the most difficult of circumstances is set to be recognised with Leeds’s highest civic honour.

Leeds City Council is today proud to announce that Rob and Kevin have been chosen to receive the freedom of Leeds.

They have long held a special place in the affections of the city thanks to their all-conquering exploits on the rugby field with Leeds Rhinos – but, more recently, the pair have also touched hearts right around the world following Rob’s diagnosis in 2019 with motor neurone disease (MND).

Rob’s response to his diagnosis was typically positive and selfless, with the last three years seeing him championing the raising of funds and awareness for all those affected by the disease.

Kevin, meanwhile, has followed his old friend’s lead by embarking on a series of gruelling endurance challenges that have raised millions of pounds for MND-related causes.

And that unshakeable bond – together with the manner in which it reflects the very best of Leeds – will be celebrated in suitably prestigious style by the council next month when Rob and Kevin are made honorary freemen of the city.

The awards will be presented to the pair in a ceremony at Leeds Civic Hall on January 11, with their names soon to be added to an engraved ‘roll of honour’ that can be found in the building’s banqueting suite.

Being granted the freedom of the city will put Rob and Kevin in illustrious company, with Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Alan Bennett and members of the great Leeds United side of the 1960s and 1970s among its previous recipients.

Responding to the council’s tribute, Rob said: “I would like to thank Leeds City Council for this honour. Having spent my entire adult life as part of the Leeds Rhinos family, it meant so much to me during my career to be able to bring joy to the people of Leeds with our success on the field.

“When you look down the distinguished list of previous recipients of this honour, it makes this acknowledgement from the city even more outstanding and I am deeply humbled to receive it, especially alongside Kevin, a man who continues to set the example for all of us to follow.”

Speaking about the award, Kevin said: “I am deeply honoured to be receiving this accolade. I have always said that whilst Oldham is my home town, Leeds is my home city and it was my privilege to represent the city as a Leeds Rhinos player during my career.

“Whilst it was a joy to bring sporting success to our city on the field, the way the people of Leeds in particular have shown their love and support for my friend Rob Burrow and his family since his MND diagnosis says everything about what a wonderful city Leeds is and I accept this award on behalf of all those people who have done so much for our community.”

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the council is honouring Rob and Kevin with the freedom of the city. We already knew they were winners through the success they had as team-mates at Leeds Rhinos, but the events of recent years have really shown that here we have two very special people indeed.

“The way Rob has responded to his illness has been humbling to see, while Kevin’s determination to support not only his friend but all those affected by MND has been hugely inspirational. They are true Leeds heroes, and it is our privilege to be able to give their incredible story the recognition it deserves.”

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