Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Inside the Sensory Suite at Tottenham Hotspur

Posted on 3 December 2021 by Roberto Petrucco

Sporting venues are improving the way they offer access to disabled fans, and one that leads the way, is Tottenham Hotspur.

Everyone who has been to Spurs new stadium has seen how incredible it is, however, it has so much more to offer than many may realise.

With around 3000 supporters who require some sort of help with accessibility, it is equipped in a range of ways to be as inclusive as possible.

One in 100 people in the UK are on the autistic spectrum, with everyday activities sometimes proving difficult with sensory overloads.

The sights, smells and noise at a football match can cause stress and anxiety, sometimes leading to meltdowns.

The Sensory Suite

The Sensory Suite at Spurs is simple in its appearance, but it has been meticulously thought out, providing a calming environment for supporters to be able to watch the game.

As plans were being drawn up for the new stadium, Spurs engaged with Mike Ayres Designs, who specialise in these types of rooms.

There are several features, such as a sensory wall, a bubble machine, low level lighting, and a variety of toys that instantly meet the eye.

The sensory wall inside Tottenham's Sensory Suite
The Sensory Wall

All of these play a role in being able to help calm someone with autism, and with a full view of the pitch, watch the game too.

However, it is behind the scenes where this facility goes simply from a good room to a great all-round experience.

As soon as a person contacts the disability team, there is a structure to make the whole experience as calming as possible.

Spurs assess each individual based on their needs and requirements to then properly match people up in a way that will suit them all.

The Bubble Machine
The Bubble Machine

Going above and beyond

The team also provide a Social Story with photos and explanations that guide the individual through the route from stadium entry to the room.

Spurs offer the opportunity to visit the stadium on a non-matchday to help with getting used to the facility, and the sensory room itself, as well as the route within the stadium.

There is also a Sensory Pack provided that includes Spurs branded ear defenders, a fidget spinner and more that all comes in a branded bag.

These details are a big part in making sure anyone accessing the sensory room is familiar and comfortable allowing for a smooth match-day.

It is not just exclusive for football fans, with the suite being used during the NFL games and the Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk fight.

The view from the Sensory Suite

Meet Simon Blewett, Tottenham’s Disability Access Officer

As the father of an autistic child, Simon understands the importance that this room has:

“It is essential that they have access to our facilities in the same way a general admission fan would.

“People should have the same right to attend football matches as anyone else.

“If we can assist by making adjustments and changing our offering then yes, it is essential.”

Simon’s enthusiasm and care in his job is clear from the moment you meet him.

As a Spurs fan, he is proud to be able to help others within his role:

“It’s an absolute pleasure and a privilege not only to work for the club I support, but where I am able to assist, open doors and remove barriers”

Tottenham cater for many disabilities

The care that has gone into the Sensory Suite is not a surprise from a club that does so much for the community.

The adjustments that Simon referred to are being seen throughout the club. The Dare Skywalk is wheelchair accessible, and the Stadium Tours offer the option of sign language too.

In the community, the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation runs a sports session for adults with a disability at their new N17 Arena.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a truly remarkable venue which has 250 wheelchair bays and 500 easy access seats.

The Sensory Suite may not host many people, but for those who use it, it is essential, and allows them to enjoy football as much as anyone else.