Ikram Butt, the founder of the British Asian Rugby Association (BARA), is to be awarded an honorary doctorate by Leeds Metropolitan University on Friday June 22 as part of their Summer Graduation celebrations.
The former professional Rugby League player played for several top flight teams including Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants and made history in 1995 when he became the first British Asian player to represent England in any football code.
Ikram But said: “I’m very honoured and overwhelmed to receive this award from such a prestigious university and its all the more so from the city I grew up.”
After his retirement from rugby he set up BARA in Bradford in 2004, with the aim to provide positive role models and increase community integration. BARA was praised in 2007 by Gordon Brown during Prime Minister’s Question Time, and was officially endorsed by former Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe.
RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood said: “On behalf of the RFL I would like to congratulate Ikram on his honorary doctorate from Leeds Metropolitan University.
“He has been one of the sport’s true trailblazers and continues to work tirelessly to break down barriers and help grow the sport.
“We’re delighted that his hard work and valuable contributions to Rugby League and local communities has been recognised.”
Ikram now manages the Connecting Communities Project for Leeds Rugby Foundation, developing sport involvement across cultural and religious boundaries. In 2009 he released an autobiography entitled ‘Tries and Prejudice’ which outlines the social struggles Ikram faced during his time in sport, as well as the effect religion can have on training.
Ikram is a long-standing supporter of Mosaic, serving on the Yorkshire Regional Leadership Group and a regular mentor in schools in the region.
He is also an ambassador for the White Ribbon Campaign, an international campaign speaking out against women’s domestic violence and Patron for the Life For A Kid Foundation
His dedicated work has resulted in awards from both the Asian Power 100 FutureLeaders and the British Muslim Honours Ceremony.
Summer Graduations are taking place at the University’s Headingley Campus from Monday 18 to Saturday 23 July, where over 5,000 students will graduate over six days, alongside nine honorary doctorate recipients.