Rainbow Laces: Tottenham's Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg join video call with LGBT+ fans

Supporters from the Proud Lilywhites - Spurs' official group for LGBT+ fans and allies - discuss Rainbow Laces and more with Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg ahead of Sunday's north London derby at home to Arsenal, live on Sky Sports

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Tottenham's Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg joined fans from the club's LGBT+ and allies supporters group Proud Lilywhites for a special video call in support of Rainbow Laces

Tottenham's Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg discussed the importance of being good allies on a video call with members of the club's LGBT+ fans group.

The Spurs stars were joined by Proud Lilywhites co-chairs Chris Paouros and Lee Johnson, plus their fellow fans Erin Hartnett and Heather Elliott, for a special chat organised by the Premier League leaders to mark the annual activation of the Rainbow Laces campaign.

Johnson explained to the players how his support for Tottenham stretches back nearly 15 years but that he stayed away from attending games for several years due to incidents of hearing anti-LGBT slurs and chants which made him feel unwelcome.

However, after joining the Proud Lilywhites who were formed back in 2014, he found a community which improved his matchday experience considerably.

"For us, it's progression," Johnson tells Hojbjerg. "It's groups like the Proud Lilywhites and it's activities and campaigns like Rainbow Laces that really help LGBT+ fans feel like they are accepted in the game and are welcome. It gives us a sense of home."

Tottenham Rainbow Laces video call Proud Lilywhites
Image: Chris Paouros, Lee Johnson, Heather Elliott and Erin Hartnett were on the call with Dier and Hojbjerg, in an event arranged by the club

The Denmark international midfielder describes how his support for Rainbow Laces grew through his captaincy at former club Southampton.

"It's our responsibility to make sure there's room for everyone," he says. "I wore the rainbow armband, I'm proud to be part of it.

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"And I'm proud the Premier League is a part of it, because I think we are trying to make a difference to the world."

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg of Southampton celebrates with teammate Nathan Redmond at full-time after the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Norwich City at St Mary's Stadium on December 04, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Image: Hojbjerg skippered Southampton at the club's Rainbow Laces matchday last season

Elliott, calling in from Canada, explains how visible cues like last year's illumination of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in rainbow colours - something that will be repeated this weekend by Spurs - also send out a strong message worldwide.

"It seems like a very small thing to just change the lightbulb colour of a stadium," she says, "but the impact it has - especially on people who might be questioning or who might not be living out - is huge, because it shows this is another space where you are welcome."

Meanwhile, Dier highlights the importance of education around LGBT+ inclusion through football for people of all ages - and Paouros, speaking to Sky Sports, says the combination of campaigns like Rainbow Laces with the joint work undertaken by the club and the fans' group is proving effective.

"It has made a difference. If you think how much the conversation has progressed in the last five or six years, it's considerable and clubs are now doing so much more," she says.

"Spurs work closely with us and that helps because we all want to push things forward.

While there is still discrimination in the game, we do still have to have campaigns like Rainbow Laces.
Chris Paouros, Proud Lilywhites

"We do this activity really to say that we're part of the family. When you consider what football traditionally looks like, we felt like we weren't part of that.

"As a result, confounding these stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people is important in order to ensure we're included and welcome. You could be sat next to someone who's LGBTQ+, and activity like this video call helps us to simply say that we're part of football as well."

Paouros will be among the 2,000 fortunate Spurs fans returning to the stadium on Sunday for the north London derby against Arsenal, live on Sky Sports. As it does on every matchday, the Proud Lilywhites flag will be among the banners seen around the ground.

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"Having our flag hung in the stadium means that we are a valued fan group just like all the other ones," she adds.

"We'd like to be in a position where we could feel like we don't have to differentiate ourselves, but while there is still discrimination in the game, we do still have to have these conversations and campaigns like Rainbow Laces."

Meanwhile, Proud Lilywhites members on the regular pre-match video call before the Arsenal game will be joined by a very special guest - Spurs legend Ossie Ardiles.

Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign. If you'd like to help inspire others in sport by sharing your own story of being LGBT+ or an ally, please contact us here.

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