The latest in a long line of bilateral SLO meetings took place in the run-up to the Champions League third qualifying round fixture between Dynamo Kyiv and Slavia Prague on 14 August.
Jointly organised by the Ukrainian NGO Football Democracy and SD Europe, the meeting saw Slavia SLO Jana Kaufnerová take time out of a busy schedule for an exchange of views with fellow SLO Maxym Sholomko (FC Obolon Kyiv) and football activist and Football Democracy founder, Igor Gomonai.
Jana has supported Slavia for 20 years and used to work and volunteer in various roles in the club. She now combines her SLO duties with a marketing position, a combination that is common in Czech football. After several aborted attempts, the SLO role was officially introduced in Czechia in 2017. Jana is the only SLO at her club, which is also typical of other Czech clubs. She mainly focuses on away games, but also liaises with visiting SLOs at home matches. Being a fan herself, Jana has the trust of the fans and her role is perceived very well by both the club and the supporters.
Of interest to the Ukrainian side was the reporting system in place in Czechia. After every game, Czech SLOs prepare reports for each other using a standard form. This form contains information about how fans were treated and what the conditions at the stadium were like, etc., allowing SLOs to plan accordingly. The information gathered also helps Tomáš Čarnogurský, the SLO at Slovan Liberec who also acts as the SLO coordinator of the Czech Football League LFA, to monitor the situation at grounds from a supporter perspective and make proposals to the football authorities to improve the situation where necessary.
Maxym and Igor described the situation in Ukrainian football and the SLO work being undertaken there. Although the SLO role has been a licensing requirement for many years, clubs have been slow to implement it fully. As a volunteer, Maxym works on match days only, but he is supported by the fans, while the club is very happy to have him as a mediator between them and the fans. Football Democracy has set out to promote the SLO role as one of its main goals and will continue its efforts to popularise it and involve more clubs.
A second bilateral meeting of a different kind took place when Celtic went to AEK Athens for the second leg of their third-round Champions League qualifier, also on 14 August. Some 700 fans of the Scottish club travelled to Greece to see the game and were accompanied, as always, by the club’s SLO, JP Taylor.
On the eve of the match, JP met representatives of the Greek fanzine HUMBA, the biggest grassroots magazine in Greece, which focuses on the social and political meaning of sport, the match day experience, fan culture and the crowds in the stands in general.
After John Paul explained his role in the club and the function of the SLO at Celtic and in Scotland as a whole, he received feedback on the situation Greek fans find themselves in and the challenges they face during the week and on match days, challenges that arise on many different levels, such as policing, relations with the club, football governance and more besides.
With the match scheduled for 9.15pm the next day, JP was present at the gathering point (Kallimarmaro in the city centre) at 6pm to help with the organisation of the buses that took Celtic fans to the stadium and deal with any last-minute details, such as tickets, lost and found items, and general supporter queries. On arrival at the OAKA Stadium, the Celtic fans were greeted and welcomed by Original 21 (R21), AEK’s main ultra group.
Further bilateral SLO meetings are expected to take place as the season progresses.