The Hellenic Football Federation (HFF) organised an SLO bilateral meeting in Thessaloniki on the day before the Europa League play-off round first leg between PAOK and Brøndby IF. It was attended by Kaltampanidis Efthimis and Giantsidis Kiriakos) of the PAOK FC fan department, PAOK security officer Panagiotis Pliatsikas, Telis Zournatsidis, representative and team manager of PAOK basketball club and also Lasse Bauer and Mickel Lauritsen, SLO and security officer of Brøndby IF respectively. The discussion began with a welcome from PAOK general manager Chrisostomos Gagatsis and was moderated by SD Europe SLO Consultant Loukas Anastasiadis, who also gave an introduction to the SLO role and the purpose of bilateral meetings.
Following the introduction, Lasse explained how the role is perceived at Brøndby IF by the various stakeholders (club management, club staff, supporters, the police, etc.). He ran through his day-to-day duties and emphasised the need for continuous interaction with the club’s supporters, not just during the match. Brøndby have two SLOs, one full-time (Lasse) and one part-time (Esben). They spend most of their time preparing for the next match, a process that includes talking to supporters, the club, the other club and the police, organising the trains for away matches and making sure everything is ready in the away section.
Lasse and Mickel admitted that there are certain differences in perspective in the two departments on how supporters should behave, but they cooperate very closely with the aim of improving the matchday experience for supporters. Lasse also gave a quick review of the last ten years, outlining the main problems and how they were resolved before concluding: “We started solving problems when we realised we had to sit round the same table and talk about them. Understanding each other and addressing football’s issues through dialogue played a key role. We almost never agree 100% but at least we come up with generally accepted compromise solutions.”
From the security point of view, Mickel explained the role of the dialogue police and dialogue stewards who interact with supporters and work with Lasse and Esben, exchanging feedback in an effort to prevent problems from arising. The dialogue police officers and stewards are the same for every club at every match, home or away, building personal relationships of trust with supporters and clubs.
Next the PAOK representatives outlined the work they do at the club with supporters and the problems they face. Dialogue with the various stakeholders does exist, but it is not structured and generally lacks mutual acceptance and understanding. Both Efthimis and Kiriakos from the PAOK fan department come from the fan base, as does the security officer, with whom they cooperate closely and who has a good understanding of supporters. Overall, the relationship with supporters is good but there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially in terms of mutual understanding.
“The main source of problems lies is outside the club,” said PAOK Security Officer, focusing on the general conduct of the police and the reluctance of the government to engage in a structured dialogue “There is some cooperation but we lack initiative, structured dialogue and mutual understanding,” they added. The ban on organised away travel (supporters are only allowed to travel individually) remains one of the main security risks at away matches, as it makes it more difficult to monitor, manage and coordinate processes and talk to supporters.
Concluding the discussion, PAOK (Efthimis) said: “There have been cases where we have prevented things from happening or escalating by working with the SLOs of the other club, but there is no centralised approach.” They also emphasised that they would like to see an improved implementation of the SLO project in Greece and volunteered to enter into an honest dialogue with the key stakeholders (the HFF, the league, clubs, supporters, the police, the government, etc) in order to identify feasible and mutually accepted solutions to the existing problems.
The meeting ended with a tour of the ground and a visit to the section where the Brøndby IF fans would be seated during the match.
HFF licensing manager and SLO coordinator George Dimitriou, who organised the event, is a big fan of the bilateral meeting concept: “I think bilateral meetings are very useful for everyone concerned. They should become standard procedure and we will definitely add them to the service we provide to clubs. We look forward to organising more such meetings with SD Europe whenever we get the opportunity.” Commenting on the SLO situation in Greece, Mr Dimitriou said: “You can always say there is room for improvement, but the HFF has already taken some forward steps with the SLO project. We have translated and localised the UEFA SLO handbook, we have organised a training workshop for the clubs and we are currently reviewing a localised toolkit for the clubs. We are more than happy to respond to any request from the clubs and provide any assistance necessary regarding the licensing criteria, of which the SLO role forms a part.”
PAOK FC and Brøndby IF SLOs and Security Officers
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 or get in touch via email@example.com.