George Dimitriou, licensing manager and SLO coordinator of the Hellenic Football Federation (HFF), last week completed a series of visits to Greek clubs applying for a licence to participate in the Greek Super League. The purpose of the visits was to evaluate whether the SLO project (article 35 of the Club Licensing and FFP regulations) is being properly implemented at each club and ascertain the extent of the support still required by clubs in this area.
Eleven clubs were selected to be evaluated under the criteria of having played in a UEFA competition last season (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, PAOK, Atromitos, Asteras Tripoli), having an active and/or substantial fan base (AEK, Iraklis, Panionios, PAS Giannina) or having a smaller fan base with a tradition of hosting big crowds of away supporters (Xanthi, Veria).
The evaluation process was identical for all clubs and involved the following steps:
• individual visits to ten (of the eleven) clubs; • general discussion about the purpose of article 35 and the role of the SLO; • outline of the specific challenges, needs and opportunities each club is facing and • interview with the club SLO based on the toolkit documents provided by UEFA and SD Europe.
Apart from the SLOs the evaluation meetings were also attended, depending on the club, by board members, licensing staff, general directors, competitions managers, stadium managers and security officers.
George Dimitriou said: “The SLO project is a UEFA and HFF licensing requirement. All clubs must respect that and take steps towards this direction. Our goal at the HFF licensing administration is to protect the long-term sustainability of football. Supporters must be part of this effort.”
The majority of the clubs recognised the potential the SLO project has and admitted more work is required on their part, work they are willing to put in. The HFF licensing administration is also optimistic about the future: “There’s a long way to go and there are many challenges ahead and barriers to break down,” said George Dimitriou. “In countries where it is applied properly, however, the SLO project has led to an improvement in the matchday experience for all the stakeholders involved, including supporters, bigger attendances and fewer cases of misunderstandings and stadium disorder.”
It was made clear to all participants that the intention of the visits was not to prevent the clubs from obtaining a licence but to draw their attention to the positive effect the SLO project can have on their relationship with supporters. “Most of the clubs requested our support in implementing the role. We are not a sanctioning mechanism. We are here to provide the clubs with all the support they need to implement the SLO project. I want to thank SD Europe for their assistance. The expertise and service they bring is invaluable. There are many things our clubs can learn from the European experience,” George Dimitriou concluded.
This was the first time in four years (since the introduction of article 35) that the clubs’ performance has been monitored in this way. For this reason, the HFF requested the assistance of SD Europe, the organisation coordinating and managing the SLO project on behalf of UEFA in all 54 member associations.
In Greece article 35 is mandatory for all clubs participating in the top tier (Super League). Next steps from the HFF side include training workshops for SLOs and other stakeholders, the creation of an SLO network and the production of additional resources that will help SLOs in their work.
Under Article 35 of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, clubs across Europe are required to appoint a Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) to ensure proper and constructive discourse between them and their fans. The SLO project originated in 2009 as a result of detailed talks between UEFA and SD Europe. It was approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in 2010, with SD Europe appointed to manage its implementation across UEFA’s 54 member associations. If you would like to learn more, visit the SLO section on the SD Europe website, follow the official SLO account on twitter or get directly in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.