As some of you might already have heard, SD Europe has teamed up with UEFA in taking further steps for the Supporter Liaison Officer role in European football.
Tony Ernst, whilst Chairman of SFSU, shakes hands with Lars-Christer Olsson, Chairman of SEF (The Swedish League) after signing an agreement to formalise dialogue between the two organisations (2012).
From 2020 and onward, the SLO training, led by SD Europe, is now part of the UEFA Academy. A big and bold move that’s bound to increase the status of the SLO role, and one that highlights the responsibility SD Europe has taken in implementing the SLO function.
Coinciding with the UEFA Academy SLO training, SD Europe is also producing a new and much awaited SLO Handbook in partnership with UEFA. Leading this work as editor and main writer is SD Europe’s newest staff member, Tony Ernst. As part of the transparency of SD Europe, and also as a chance for our members to see what we actually do, we decided to ask Tony a few questions concerning the ongoing work with the SLO Handbook.
How did you end up as editor for the new SLO Handbook?
“Hello there. I’ve been doing consultancy work for SD Europe on and off, and I was editor for the report on LIAISE, SD Europe’s latest Erasmus project, that reached its final point in December 2019. Of course, I also have the football fan background, and I have seen from close proximity the way the SLO role was implemented in Sweden. Also, professionally, I work as an editor and writer, and have been doing so for over 25 years now. So you can say that I pretty much fit the bill.”
For those of us who don’t know you, what’s your supporter background?
“I’ve been part of the Swedish football community for a long time. I was chairman of my club’s supporter club for five years and after that I spent three years as chairman of SFSU, the Swedish supporter alliance. I was chairman when we campaigned, and won, to save the 50+1 rule here in Sweden in 2013. Also, I’ve seen most of my own club’s games for the last 45 years, travelled all over Sweden, and Europe for cup games. I’ve also been taking part in Supporters Direct’s activities since the very beginning, going to conferences and meetings throughout the years.”
What will the SLO Handbook look like?
“The handbook is living its own life, so to speak. It changes all the time. But our goal is something around 70-80 pages, filled with most of the stuff that an SLO could ever need. It’s covering all the bases, encompassing all theory and a lot of the practical stuff. We are trying to make one handbook that will apply to all the nations within UEFA. Difficult, of course, as there are different legislations and rules for every country. But at the same time, we are confident that we will create something interesting and lasting.“
And when can we expect it?
“The original plan was for it to be finished and ready for use at the end of June, to coincide with the start of the new season for the European leagues. But will the new seasons start on time with everything going on now? Probably not. We still want to finish it before the summer is over, though.”
What is the most important thing about this Handbook?
“I would say that the most important thing is the practical side of it. We often hear about newly appointed SLOs in clubs who do not even get a job description, as there are none. So, they don’t know what to do. Their first task often is to phone another club’s SLO and ask for advice. With this handbook there will be a lot of practical advice from different SLOs round Europe; SLOs from smaller clubs, bigger clubs, case studies, variances in home and away games, etc. We are sure that this will be a lot of help to a lot of SLOs out there.”
Can you tell us something about the SLO training under the UEFA Academy?
“This is something that we’re very proud of, both at SD Europe and, I’m sure, at UEFA. So, not only is the SLO role a requirement for club licensing within UEFA, but the training for the SLOs is also part of the UEFA Academy. This means that national associations can book a 2- or 4-day training course, where all the club SLOs come together and learn and interact. The training is led by us at SD Europe, via the incredible Lena Gustafsson Wiberg, and overseen by UEFA. It feels really good. And the handbook will be very useful in the training programme.”
How has the covid-19 pandemic affected the work on the Handbook?
“Covid-19 has affected us all, and the football community is just one of many areas where everything is standing still. Of course, what differs when it comes to football is that it’s not just any line of work. For many, many people round Europe; football is the very air that we breathe, the sun that we follow, and the soul of our lives. Without it, we are lost. And many SLOs suddenly find that during the pandemic, their line of work is one of the first to get laid off. We hope that in the European football after the virus, there will be a place for the SLO as strong as there was before. But to answer the question: the handbook will take into account that there is a time before the pandemic, and a time after.”
Click here to learn more about Supporter Liaison Officers.
You can follow Tony on Twitter here.