At the inaugural European SLO network meeting in Stockholm on May 18-20, which was organised by SD Europe with funding provided by UEFA, 11 club SLOs from 11 countries were invited to exchange best practice examples and potential answers to the challenges faced by SLOs at the European and domestic level.
Making up the network ‘first eleven’ are Dirk Vos (KAA Gent/Belgium), Lasse Bauer(Brøndby IF/Denmark), Jonathan Waite (Tottenham/England), Thomas Kirschner (Schalke 04/Germany), Ton Strooband (Feyenoord/Netherlands), Arne-Christian Eggen (Rosenborg/Norway), Nuno Gago (Benfica/Portugal), Radosław Sołtys (Lech Poznan/Poland), John Paul Taylor (Celtic/Scotland), Adrian Grünig (FC Basel/Switzerland) and Pierre Nordberg (Malmö FF/Sweden).
The purpose of the network is to identify and facilitate the exchange of best practice, review the minimum common standards that were introduced in the 2011 UEFA SLO handbook and suggest improvements for the greater consolidation of the SLO role in European and domestic competitions. As part of the event, the participants had the opportunity to witness how the Swedish SLOs manage a regular matchday and exchange views on what makes for a positive and inclusive football experience with representatives from the Swedish Football League (SEF) and the Swedish Football Supporters Union (SFSU).
After three days of presenting and analysing the SLO work in each country, the network members identified differences and core similarities in the day-to-day work and came up with ideas on how to better promote the SLO project. They also put forward suggestions for improving the quality of the service SLOs provide (e.g. by organising exchange programmes, incorporating social work in domestic training, etc.) and formulated requests for UEFA that they believe will enhance their work and the experience for all the parties involved in UEFA competitions (e.g. mandatory presence of SLOs at UEFA organisation meetings, development of a reporting system for UEFA matches, and attendance by SLOs at the annual UEFA and EU Security Conference).
Shadowing SLOs of three different clubs One reason for selecting Stockholm as the venue for the meeting was the opportunity for the network members to observe SLOs in action at two matches in two days (Hammarby v Malmö and Djurgården v Kalmar). For the first match the group split into four smaller groups to shadow Jakob, Martin and Dippe (the three Hammarby SLOs) and Pierre (network member and Malmö SLO); for the second they split into six groups, as Djurgården have one full-time, one part-time and four matchday SLOs (Lena, Stefan, Anna, Nils, Anders and Tobias). The main activities observed were the distribution of tickets to holders of away season tickets, the reaction of the SLOs and their collaboration with safety staff concerning the management of pyrotechnics inside the stadium, the working area of the SLOs (all parts of the stadium, including the away section, in the stands and pitchside), the interaction with ultra group leaders and other individuals, and the work of the SLOs assigned to younger supporters and kids’ clubs.
The SLO project and position of supporters in Swedish football During an open discussion involving the SEF, the SFSU and club representatives, Mats Enquist (the CEO of SEF) explained why seeing and treating supporters as the heart and soul of the game was the best decision taken by Swedish football in years. He explained the league’s positive view of the SLO project and reiterated their intent to continue investing in it.
Madeleine Ödquist, manager of the Stand Up For Football project (SUFF), presented the initial SLO plan for Sweden, its current status and the goals for the next few years, which focus primarily on improving the quality of the training offered to SLOs and providing them with the necessary long-term tools to successfully fulfil their tasks.
Lena Gustafson-Wiberg, lead SLO at Djurgården, also gave a presentation on the varied work of the Swedish SLOs and the philosophy behind the project.
The SFSU were represented by three board members, who highlighted the fruitful relationship between fans and SLOs and acknowledged that the project has contributed much to the development of a larger, livelier and more active fan base. They called on the authorities to support the SLO project even further in order to lighten the workload of the SLOs and improve the quality of their work.
SD Europe would like to thank everyone involved in organising and staging the inaugural European SLO meeting, in particular lead Djurgården SLO Lena Gustafson-Wiberg as well as UEFA for funding it. The Stockholm meeting marks what will hopefully be the beginning of a long and productive working relationship between SLOs from across Europe.
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 55 member associations. If you would like to learn more, visit the SLO section on the SD Europe website, browse the SD Europe SLO resources, follow the official SLO account on twitter or get directly in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.