Jun 21, 2017
SD Europe organise the second European club SLO network meeting
Eleven SLOs were represented at the meeting, and the network has grown by 40%
The SLOs who attended the second club SLO European network meeting at the VELTINS Arena in Gelsenkirchen were as follows:
Adrian Gruenig (FC Basel, Switzerland), Beverley Mayer (St. Johnstone, Scotland), Andrey Kyuchukov (Dunav Russe, Bulgaria), Kiriakos Giantsidis (PAOK, Greece), Lasse Bauer (Brøndby, Denmark), Maurice Dumas (Feyenoord, Netherlands), Riccardo Bertolin (Roma, Italy), Thomas Kirschner (Schalke 04), Nuno Ribeiro (Boavista, Portugal), Thomas Carnogursky (Slovan Liberec, Czech Republic) and Jonathan Waite (Tottenham, England).
Goran Rickmer of Hammarby IF, Sweden, represented the Swedish SLOs, who were unable to send anyone as the meeting clashed with a SLO training event there.
On behalf of hosts Schalke 04, Volker Fürderer, head of the Security, Membership and Supporter Relations department, and lead SLO Thomas Kirschner presented the structure and operations of the department. Though it is not common for SLO and security work to be organised in the same department, good internal communication ensures that all information is shared. Volker and Thomas also highlighted the main tasks of the SLO team and the safety officer, demonstrating the need for separation of the roles in practice. The first session closed with a presentation of the supporters relations unit, its structure, operation and internal/external communications.
Participants were also introduced to the new Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Approach to Safety, Security and Service at Football Matches and Other Sports Events (CETS No. 218) and its focus on engagement with supporters, which calls for a policy of pro-active and regular communication between supporters and all other stakeholders (police, local community, clubs) as best practice.
A practical example is the cooperation between Brøndby IF and local stakeholders, who in 2015 signed a partnership agreement aiming to create a positive approach to supporters, an understanding and respect between the different parties, and a joint agreement of each stakeholder’s rights and responsibilities. The project, which was initiated by the local mayor following an escalation in the relationship between police and fans, has seen a gradual reduction in supporter-related disorder.
A similar positive example was the Danish Railway (DSB) special football trains project, which was launched back in 2008 after total damage to trains exceeded DKK 1.5m and two whole train sets were grounded for weeks in 2007. The project involved the introduction of special football train guides who travel with supporters, emphasising the need for dialogue while minimising the presence of police on the trains. This regular and close interaction between the football train guides and supporters resulted not only in a 96% reduction in football-related train and station damage but also an increase in revenue for the DSB, since more supporters are willing to travel to away matches, almost all of whom now pay for a train ticket as well.
On the second day SLOs in attendance had the opportunity to speak to the new UEFA SLO Coordinator, Alexis Angelopoulos, and share their views, concerns, and expectations of the project. The Swiss SLO training programme, the SLO sponsorship project in Sweden and the placement of SLOs in the organisation chart of most Portuguese clubs were identified as best practice, while the lack of recognition of the role and its benefits by clubs was a problem many of the network members face when doing their job. For his part, Alexis Angelopoulos said: “The second SLO Network meeting in Gelsenkirchen was very engaging and showed that SLOs are essential for effective and healthy communication between clubs and their supporters, although, there are still opportunities for further implementation of the role. Furthermore, the recent developments at the Council of Europe with regard to the integrated safety, security and service approach are very positive and provide SLOs the chance to play a key role going forward.”
The network members will gather again at one of the two club SLO European network meetings planned for the 2017/18 season and may well work together at a European match, since most of their clubs participate in one of the two UEFA competitions. Through those meetings and encounters, network members are expected to develop even better relationships and stronger bonds, as the SLO work continues to evolve.