As part of their drive to raise supporter liaison standards in the domestic game, the Russian Football Union (RFS) invited SLOs from Ajax and Celtic to present their work at the latest RFU training event at the Otkritie Arena, the home of Spartak Moscow, in February.
More than 50 SLOs from clubs in the top three tiers attended the event along with officials from the RFS and the Russian Premier League, supporter representatives, and other experts, such as CAFE’s Jochen Kemmer, who led sessions of the role of the disability access officer (DAO).
The SLO part of the workshop, which was chaired by SD Europe’s Head of SLO Implementation, Stuart Dykes, began with a look at the SLO work at Scottish Premier League champions Celtic. Lead SLO John Paul Taylor gave a detailed insight into his role, saying: “The purpose of the SLO is to develop relationships between the club and the fans, providing transparency and background into club decisions and taking feedback from fans on matters concerning the club.
“At Celtic we believe the best way to do this is face to face, where possible. We also use Q&A sessions through our fan forum and, of course, social media, where Facebook, Twitter and podcasts now play such an influential role.”
Indeed, Celtic have made such exemplary use of social media that the club’s dedicated SLO Twitter account, @CelticFCSLO, now has over 30,000 followers.
Following on from John Paul, Ajax lead SLO Henk Voors told the meeting that his main focus was on the so-called hardcore support. Regular meetings with supporter representatives, other club departments, and the local authority, help to maintain a constructive dialogue between the various stakeholders. Site visits ahead of European matches are another important part of the work.
“A few weeks before every game, I visit the host club to discuss travel, ticketing, security and other matters of importance to our fans, such as tifo activities, to ensure a good flow of information between the two sides,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Russian Premier League, Aleksandr Safonov said: “This was a very important meeting for SLOs, clubs, leagues and the RFS. This annual event is very popular among the SLOs. Today, SLOs from Ajax and Celtic attended our meeting, which was very interesting and instructive.”
On behalf of the SLOs, Anton Dorofeev of Dinamo Moscow added: “We are pleased to see our colleagues from European football clubs. They have interesting presentations and gave a clear overview of their work. We are making progress in our work and are also ready to share our experience with our international colleagues.”
Speaking for SD Europe, Stuart Dykes said: “This event underlines the desire of the RFS to draw on best practice from other countries to develop the SLO role in Russia. In highlighting the need for the football and public authorities to engage in constructive dialogue with supporters through club SLOs, the RFS are also helping to ensure compliance with the new Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events.”