LEEDS United has had its share of PR challenges this year, both on and off the pitch.
But its latest decision to take the team to Myanmar (formerly Burma) has taken criticism to a new level.
The club says it is breaking new ground in this two-match tour. Leeds believe they are the first club to play there since the 1930s.
There are good reasons for that surely? This is a country which has suffered deep political unrest, some of it leading to accusations of industrial-scale ethnic cleansing by the current regime.
It’s not exactly up there on people’s holiday bucket list either, even though the games are being played in cities deemed relatively safe and some fans will still want to go.
The club’s Managing Director Angus Kinnear defended the decicion and says those in the country are passionate about English football and the club sees this as a chance to showcase that. “They have ambitious goals for grassroots and elite football development that we are delighted to be able to support,” he said. “This tour gives us an opportunity to meet new fans of football who will hopefully support our journey back to the Premier League in the coming years.”
But it’s naive at best for the club to believe it can do that without criticism, just because it’s football and there’ll be a kickabout with some underprivileged kids.
It would also be naive to believe supporting grassroots football was the only reason for Leeds United’s first team to travel to Myanmar.