At the beginning of July, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) hosted the sixth exchange visit of SD Europe’s supporter liaison project, LIAISE, which is funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme and UEFA.
The delegation was headed by SD Europe’s project manager, Stuart Dykes, and included Jakub Novakovski and Dariusz Łapiński of the Polish Football Association’s Infrastructure and Organization of Events department and Martin Schlosser, head of Austria’s National Information Point for Combating Football Hooliganism in the role of external expert. The visit was organised by the BFU’s expert advisor, Dimitar Hristov, and also attended by Ilian Petrov, the SLO at Slavia Sofia.
The exchange visit’s main focus was to showcase the work of local supporter liaison officers with an insight into the matchday operations and an in-depth look at the work surrounding the organisation of the Bulgarian Super Cup game between Ludogorets and Lokomotiv Plovdiv. The delegation had the opportunity to observe the arrival and admission of the two sets of fans and the work of the stewards, the police and the SLOs and safety officers of both clubs.
On the first day of the visit, Minko Pondev, Head of Bulgarian NFIP, talked about the work of his unit as part of the police general directorate, especially with regard to the process of dynamic risk assessment before matches, national and international cooperation with other police bodies, and the focus on prevention through improved dialogue with supporters rather than dealing with incidents once they have happened.
Nedelcho Mihailov, Head of the Sports and Technical Department at the BFU, then introduced the delegation to the organisation of the footballing structures in Bulgaria, the increase in the number of people watching league football, and briefly discussed the scheduling of matches.
In the afternoon, Dimitar Hristov, the BFU’S SLO coordinator, gave a presentation on how the SLO role is being implemented in Bulgaria, outlining the key themes for the dialogue with supporters in 2020 and beyond. Ilian Petrov, the SLO at Slavia Sofia, then explained to the delegation the essence of his work at the club, both nationally and internationally. He pointed out that the implementation of the SLO role was still a work in process at many clubs.
On the second day, the delegation travelled to Levski Sofia for an exchange of information with the club’s safety officer, who answered a host of questions about security-related issues faced by the club, the stadium infrastructure, the relationship with the club’s supporters, and the work of the club SLO.
A meeting was also held with the Deputy Director of the State Agency for the Interior, Commissar Anton Zlatanov, who described the security approach at football matches, the changes within this activity after 2005, in particular since the recent amendment to the sports law, and the work with the supporters to ensure a safe experience for all.
On the third day, the group was received by Pavel Kolev, CEO of PFC Levski, who outlined his vision for the club’s relationship with its supporters over the next few years and his desire for Levsky to make a positive contribution to promoting the SLO role across Bulgaria.
🏟Second day of the sixth #LIAISE exchange visit in Sofia. Our first meeting this morning is with the safety officer and stadium manager of @fclevski ⚽#Fanliasion #SLO #PassionHasPower@pzpn_pl @EuSport @UEFA @SuppLiaison @BFU_1923 pic.twitter.com/mV3CK8tV8E — SD Europe (@SDEurope07) July 3, 2019
In addition to attending the Super Cup game, which Ludogorets won 2-0 in front of 3,800 spectators, the delegation was given the opportunity to attend the pre-match organisation meeting and visit the control room.
Commenting on the exchange, Stuart Dykes, SD Europe’s SLO consultant said: “The visit was exceptionally well organised by the BFU and the various meetings with a variety of key stakeholders gave the delegation a detailed insight into the situation in Bulgarian football regarding match policing and supporter engagement and the problems that still need to be addressed. The exchange of information and experiences between the partners ensured this was a very productive visit.”
LIAISE is a unique two-year collaborative partnership that brings together supporters (SD Europe, FSE, ANS, SFSU), football associations (Bulgaria, France, Poland, Portugal), football leagues (Czech Republic, France, Sweden) and stakeholders including UEFA and the European Think Tank of Football Safety and Security Experts and the Council of Europe for the first time. LIAISE kicked off in January 2018 and will run for two years until December 2019.
Partner accounts of the visit can be found here: