Tottenham’s new £1billion stadium boasts many things to be impressed about, but for Chris Paouros it is a flag situated in the away end that makes her most proud.
Every time Paouros, who is co-chair of Tottenham’s official LGBTQ+ Supporters Association known as the Proud Lilywhites, steps foot in the arena her eyes are drawn to the Pride flag and everything it stands for.
She can go to games knowing she is accepted and also people around the world can also see that Spurs are welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.
“That visibility is really important,” she told the PA news agency. “People will have seen the big flag in the corner at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and that really matters because that is a real kind of statement from the club, and from us, to say this is a safe and welcoming environment for our LGBTQ+, fans, employees.
“And that’s really important. So anyone that walks into that stadium, whether you’re doing the sky walk, and you’re looking at it from the top of the stadium, or whether you’re looking at it during a match, that’s what that says.
“I can’t tell you how many messages we get from all over the country and all over the world from people saying, ‘That really means a lot to me, it means a lot to me to know that my football club values me’.
“We’re part of the club, we’re part of the furniture, part of what makes Spurs Spurs is us, because of that flag, because of the stuff that we do, because of the fact that we’re visible and vocal.
“That’s really important to us, and it’s important to our members. And it’s important to LGBTQ+ Spurs fans all over the country and all over the world.”
When Paouros co-founded the organisation seven years ago, she did so with an aim of nurturing an environment where everyone felt safe and accepted.
The Proud Lilywhites has three strands to the organisation – to provide a social platform for members, to educate and campaign.
Paouros showed the effects of the social side of things, driven by the presence of the flag, by telling the story of how her co-chair Lee Johnson found his way back to the club after feeling intimidated by a well-known homophobic chant.
“Lee went to Spurs I don’t know how many years ago and the ‘rent boy’ chant was in full effect at Chelsea and that is a homophobic chant,” she explained.
“He heard that repeatedly and just thought, ‘I can’t be here’, because this is aggressive and difficult and it’s homophobic.
“He did not feel safe, so he gave up his season ticket and went away for five or so years and then it was seeing the flag at White Hart Lane, it made him think, ‘Oh, maybe this is for me’, and came back.
“Now he has got a season ticket again and and is the co-chair. So for me that’s a wonderful story.
“And that’s so important because you know it’s not about sanitising football. I’m not saying we should be clapping like it’s cricket and all the rest of it.
“But the fact is, it shouldn’t feel like a dangerous environment for anybody or it shouldn’t feel intimidating.”