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Spurs REACH and Fahim Rahman (fourth from right) - © Tottenham Hotspur FC

Spurs REACH: Let’s break down the “invisible barrier”

For our latest Fan Group In Focus feature we caught up with Spurs REACH – a new group for Spurs fans which was formed in May 2022 with the aim of helping diversify the club’s supporter base.  

Fahim Rahman is one of Spurs REACH’s three founding members and was inspired to launch the group after following the work of Anwar Uddin and the FSA’s Fans for Diversity campaign. That in itself isn’t unique, we’re proud to say the campaign has inspired dozens of new supporters’ groups, but what is unusual is how far Fahim and Anwar go back.

“I went to primary school with Anwar and we’ve actually known each other since we were four years old,” says Fahim. “We both played football together at school, stayed in touch, and I kept an eye on his playing career but for me it’s what he’s done off-the-field which has been the most impactful.”

REACH stands for “Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage” and its aim from day one was to promote Spurs to fans in traditionally underrepresented communities – it was a concept the club loved and got behind.

“There’s a really big Turkish, Afro-Caribbean and Albanian community around the ground, but we haven’t always seen that on matchdays, a mix that truly reflects the area that the stadium and club is in,” says Fahim.

He’s keen to emphasise that Spurs REACH is open to all and has 350+ members, a large contingent of which are not from ethnic minority backgrounds, but he does think there’s a real need for groups such as his – and it’s a belief formed from first-hand experience.

“Invisible barriers”

Fahim continues: “I watched the 1990 World Cup when I was nine-years-old and fell in love with the way Gazza and Gary Lineker played the game – but I went to a primary school in east London with mainly kids of south Asian heritage.

“Many of us loved football but I never had a dad or uncle or someone who took me to the club, in the way a traditional white community often has some sort of lineage link. So lots of kids I grew up with looked solely at TV exposure and players they related to growing up – so a lot of kids in my area ended up following Liverpool thanks to John Barnes.”

Fahim and his peers were also the offspring of first or second generation immigrants who had themselves experienced racism from crowds in the 60s, 70s and 80s so understandably discouraged their children from going to the game.

It’s one of the invisible barriers Spurs REACH and other groups try to challenge.

“There’s enough barriers about going to the match anyway, we don’t want there to be an extra barrier – the ‘nobody here looks like me’ barrier,” explains Fahim.

It’s a barrier that most fans don’t even have to think about but if you’re a young supporter with no friends or relatives who go to games it can be an intimidating one.

“I’m doing this because I’m a passionate 42-year-old supporter with two young daughters and I don’t want that barrier to exist for them. I’m doing it as a father and someone who loves my club and wants to help bring in the next generation.

“As a teenager I only made it to White Hart Lane by myself a couple of times as I had to lie to my parents about where I was going and travel across London by myself on two overground trains. I wasn’t used to being around an environment with alcohol either.”

Fahim found it an intimidating experience, albeit one which he endured because of his love for the game, but he feels more diverse looking crowds would have eased the process – and that is exactly what Spurs REACH seeks to achieve.

South Asian Heritage Month runs from 18th July – 17th August to honour south Asian history and culture. Our Fans for Diversity campaign has helped kickstart dozens of new south Asian supporter groups over the years so if you’re a fan from that background – or any other – give us a shout as we’d love to help you get going.

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