Rob Burrow
Rob Burrow

Civic event will celebrate the inspirational life of Rob Burrow

11 July 2024

The city of Leeds will pay tribute to the life and legacy of Rob Burrow CBE at a commemorative civic event this week.

Taking place on Friday (July 12) at Leeds Civic Hall, the event will see invited representatives of the sporting and charity communities – and many others – coming together to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the late Leeds Rhinos rugby legend.

Members of Rob’s family will be attending the event, which will feature speeches and videos saluting both his sporting exploits and his inspirational fundraising work after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Abigail Marshall Katung, will formally welcome attendees and make an opening speech.

Other speakers will include Rhinos board member and Rob’s former team-mate Jamie Jones-Buchanan, MND Association chief executive Tanya Curry and Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council.

The assembled guests will also hear tributes from Tom Riordan (chief executive of Leeds City Council), Ed Anderson CBE (HM Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire), Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Speaker of the House of Commons and president of the Rugby Football League) and Paul Watkins (director of fundraising at Leeds Hospitals Charity).

Fittingly, the event is being held in the Civic Hall’s banqueting suite, which was also the location for the 2023 ceremony where Rob was awarded the freedom of Leeds.

It is invite-only but will be streamed live online so people in Leeds and beyond can watch as the city honours a genuine local and national hero.

Rob’s passing at the start of June prompted a huge outpouring of emotion across Leeds and the rest of the country, with a sea of flowers, shirts and other mementoes being placed by fans outside the AMT Headingley Rugby Stadium, home of the Rhinos.

There were also unforgettable scenes before the father-of-three’s funeral on Sunday (July 7) as thousands of people lined the streets of West Yorkshire to applaud and pay their respects during his cortege’s journey to Pontefract Crematorium.

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“It’s our privilege to be honouring Rob’s life and achievements with this civic event, where the speeches and other tributes will show once again just how much he meant to our city.

“The event has received support from councillors right across Leeds, who speak with one voice when they talk about his special place in the affections of the communities they represent.”

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Abigail Marshall Katung, said:

“The love and respect that has been expressed for Rob since he passed away has been incredibly moving to see. He made a massive difference to life in Leeds, both on and off the pitch.

“I’m pleased and proud to have the opportunity to welcome so many distinguished guests to the Civic Hall on Friday for an occasion that I’m sure will be poignant and uplifting in equal measure.”

Gary Hetherington, chief executive of Leeds Rhinos, said:

“On behalf of everyone connected with Leeds Rhinos, I would like to thank Leeds City Council for hosting this event to honour Rob’s memory.

“The outpouring of love and support for the whole Burrow family since Rob’s passing has been a testament to how much he meant to so many people, especially here in Leeds.

“I am sure the family will take comfort from all the tributes that will be paid to Rob and I hope as many fans as possible will be able to watch online on Friday and be part of this special occasion for the city of Leeds.”

Rob made nearly 500 appearances for the Rhinos between 2001 and 2017, winning eight Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenge trophies.

He was also a committed ambassador for club and city, giving enthusiastic support to the community-based work of the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and initiatives such as the council’s Child Friendly Leeds programme.

Following his diagnosis in 2019, Rob spearheaded a Leeds Hospitals Charity appeal to raise funds for a specialist MND care centre, with the ground-breaking on the project taking place at Seacroft Hospital the day after he passed away.

The council-backed Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon, meanwhile, was launched in 2023 and has to date raised more than £7m for charity. The marathon returns next year and entries are open now.

This Friday’s civic event – which has been jointly organised by the council and the Rhinos – gets under way at 11am. The public will be able to watch it here.

The event comes as the council continues to explore potential ideas for a permanent new tribute to Rob in Leeds.


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