Following a recent SLO workshop in Sweden, the Swedish Football League (SEF) ran a piece on its website that included an interview with of SD Europe/UEFA SLO Coordinator Stuart Dykes.
We are happy to reproduce a translation of the piece here.
The Swedish Football League (SEF) held their annual SLO workshop in the second week of November (14.11.2015) with the participation of SD Europe/UEFA SLO Coordinator Stuart Dykes. The workshop took place in Solna and was attended by the SEF and eighteen club SLOs representing thirteen clubs, who engaged in a two-day conference with panel discussions and sessions on the aims of the SLO project in 2016 as well as the new SLO training the SEF will offer to clubs. Brondby IF SLO Lasse Bauer was also invited to present on the SLO work in Denmark, while Malmö SLO Pierre Nordberg analysed how the SLO work around UEFA competitions matches is different compared with the Allsvenskan.
Last season the SEF explained how the SLO project has contributed to a 20% reduction in football violence in Sweden and Stuart’s presence at the workshop was a great opportunity for an interview on the SEF website.
“The project was officially launched in all UEFA member countries in 2012 and since then Sweden has made the biggest progress compared with the starting point”, says Stuart, who considers the SLO work in Sweden as one of the best in Europe.
“The main task of the SLOs is to promote dialogue and help to prevent conflict situations from arising. They reconcile the work of the police with the culture of supporters and also the positive work clubs do. The different stakeholders (the police, the clubs, the authorities, the leagues and the supporters) need to understand each other and work together to succeed,” says Stuart and adds: “This has been done very well in Sweden. Everybody has accepted the SLOs and their role in the game.”
Stuart has acquired a clear view of the SLO work in Sweden. “I have been to matches in Sweden at three different levels, Allsvenskan, Superettan and the Champions League, and I have seen how SLOs work – their approach and the cooperation they have with the police, the supporters and the clubs. They also helped me talk to all the different stakeholders so I can understand their views, and everyone had a very positive opinion of the SLO project”. He then explains why SD Europe and UEFA are so satisfied with the SLO work being carried out in Sweden: “There were many obstacles to overcome, but the fact that the SEF and the clubs have given the SLOs space in which to work has helped a lot in seeing the project grow. The club security officers and the different departments cooperate with the SLOs, and the police also understand the benefits of their work. I have witnessed first-hand the cooperation between the SLOs and the police at matches in Sweden and it is excellent. The supporters have also accepted the role. They know SLOs are there for them, despite not being always visible. Everything has improved a lot.”
In Sweden most Allsvenskan clubs now have an SLO, all of whom are part of the SEF’s Stand up for Football initiative which was introduced in 2012 in order to create a welcoming, safe, secure and vibrant matchday experience with the assistance of the SLOs. It started as a pilot project with AIK, Djurgården, Hammarby, Malmo, IFK Göteborg and GAIS. The four sponsors (Deloitte, Swedbank, TV4 and Svenska Spel) have enabled the pilot clubs to employ full-time SLOs, and as Stuart remarks: “Stand up for Football has been a key factor in the development of the SLO work. It gave everyone the boost they needed to get started and we now consider Sweden a best-practice case study.” It is true that without this initial boost, clubs might not have seen the potential of the SLO project. The first group of clubs have played a leading role, as full-time dedicated SLOs spend all their time and energy on their work, while other clubs rely on voluntary work or other funding. “Volunteers are working hard and doing a fantastic job, but it is always better to have dedicated employees and an SLO department with more than one SLO. It gives you a clear advantage,” notes Stuart.
Support by all stakeholders and Allsvenskan Another key requirement Sweden meets is that all stakeholders, including those not traditionally involved in football, openly and honestly support the project. The Allsvenskan approach to football is also very important, as Stuart underlines: “In the world of football we often say that supporters are the most important stakeholders, but they are often left out of decision-making processes and are rarely asked to provide feedback and input. But that has changed in Sweden since Lars-Christer Olsson and Mats Enquist took over at the SEF. This approach has helped the SLO project to grow, and it has attracted more people to the stadiums. Unfortunately, not all leagues have the same opinion on football.”
The European landscape “Although Sweden has made good progress, it does not mean everything is perfect, and more needs to be done in terms of training and education. It is all about improving what already exists and I can see everybody wants to go forward. I am happy to be working with the SEF and to have played a small part in how the project has evolved,” says Stuart before highlighting more positive examples in Europe: “Germany is the home of the SLO, it is the country where the project started back in the ‘90s and they are the number one in Europe. The work in Poland is also good. We mustn’t forget that it has only been five years since the project was launched and just three seasons since it started being implemented. Football stakeholders still need time to understand what the SLO project can do for them and how it can improve the status quo.”
Stuart also emphasises the need for international cooperation in the SLO project: “UEFA have introduced bilateral SLO meetings ahead of European competition matches, and in the past SD Europe have facilitated the shadowing of Schalke SLOs by the SLOs of Djurgården and AIK, for example. We have to encourage more international exchanges in future.”
Challenges According to Stuart, the main challenge for the SLO project is to raise awareness of the SLO role and explain what SLOs can actually achieve: “It’s all about preventing misunderstandings through dialogue. Many problems in Europe could have been prevented if people talked more. We need SLOs as a bridge, as people who speak the language of the supporters, the police and the clubs and translate between them. We need to ensure people to know what an SLO is.”
SD Europe: SD Europe’s work focuses on helping supporters to be more involved in football. They help to set up supporters’ trusts and believe that football will be better if it primarily satisfies the needs of supporters. The SLO: a Supporter Liaison Officer comes from the ranks of the supporters, has good knowledge of their own club and its environment, and facilitates dialogue between fans, clubs and the police before, during and after matches. An SLO is simply the spider in the web that communicates the views of stakeholders when needed. Stand up for Football: SUFF is part of the SEF supporters’ fund and aims to establish as a positive match-day experience and increase security in the stands. The vision is that football events should be safe, secure, welcoming and atmospheric.
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, browse the SD Europe SLO resources, follow the official SLO account on twitter or get directly in touch via email@example.com.