For April’s edition of SLO of the Month, the series turns its attention to the Swedish Allsvenskan to the Supporter Liaison Officer at IFK Göteborg.
The Swedish football season runs through the summer months so we spoke to the club’s SLO, Christopher Lindahl, just as IFK Göteborg started the new season.
First things first, what has the reaction been from IFK Göteborg supporters regarding the European Super League that was proposed recently?
“It was, of course, bad news and something that we don’t want to see. It is everything that we don’t stand for or support.
When the news came that the project and plans for the European Super League weren’t going to go through it was great news. Especially for us in Sweden where we have 51% ownership and have fought for it really hard. Hopefully more countries are going to follow us and begin to change the rules so we can see more clubs being owned by majority by the fans and 51% ownership.”
What have been the main challenges when communicating with fans during the Covid-19 pandemic?
“Without our supporters at the games and all other activities around the club and with the supporters it was something new both for me as a SLO and for our supporters. The regular meeting point was gone and there is a lot of supporters that I meet every week in a normal year that I haven’t seen for over a year now. The communication has moved even more to digital communication now and there is both positive and negative things from that. In the future I believe we can work in a more flexible way to make the communication and teamwork even better than before the pandemic.”
How have you prepared for the start of the season and the return of some fans?
“We have lived with Covid-19 for over a year now, we have adapted to some new ways to work and our supporters are doing well. The rules in Sweden at the moment allow for only eight(!) supporters in the stadium and under strict rules, so we can’t do so much in the stadiums right now. Even if we only can have eight supporters it is a step forward and we take care of them in a really good way and try to make sure the games are something special. They got a game-specific scarf for the game, we host a little “pre-gathering” in our shop and give them food at the stadium. Hopefully we can bring more supporters to our stadium and we are prepared and ready to welcome them all back!”
How is the SLO role contributing to the new fan initiatives taking place at the football club?
“With Covid-19 we have seen a lot of new initiatives from our supporters and I try to help them the best I can. The communication between the staff from the club and the supporters continues like always of course, but also, we try to see the big picture. With all of the initiatives from many supporters I try to have knowledge of them and help them to do it with the ‘right timing’.”
What are some of the achievements that you have had in this role at IFK Göteborg?
“I have worked really hard to be a natural part in the club so they use the SLO role in the right way. Over the years the club have used me in many different situations and listened to the supporter perspective. Thanks to the way that we work we have been able to make the right decisions from the beginning in many things and avoid upsetting supporters. In the way I work and the opportunity to influence it gives me a higher trust from all of the stakeholders around our club.”
Do you work in a dedicated SLO team? How many SLOs are at your club?
“I am the main SLO and work full time at IFK Göteborg. We have also two match-SLOs who work for almost every game. I have two colleagues Jesper and Johan also helping me and the club with more things than just working at games, they are really appreciated by our football club. We are a really good SLO team and have different backgrounds and ages. Even though we all don’t work full time at IFK we do talk to each other almost every day and that is a key factor for us as a team, we know each other really well and can work in a professional way. When we are more than just one SLO in the games it gives us more time and a chance to be in different places to make us flexible.”
Which people and groups are you in liaison with as the SLO?
“I talk to a lot of supporters, but mostly with the official supporters club and the supporters groups. In IFK I talk to everyone in the club which is a natural part of how the organisation works.”
What kind of tools do you use to communicate with the fanbase? Meetings, dedicated communications channels?
“Now with Covid-19 it is almost only digital communication. A lot of the days is spent talking to supporters with different kinds of social media. Some communication is from our official SLO accounts (Facebook and Twitter) and a part of the communication is in different groups on Facebook etc.”
What are the main benefits you have experienced from taking part in the SLO Network meetings?
“Every chance to meet SLOs from other teams and countries is a great opportunity to learn new things and share experience. I love to hear from other SLOs about how they handle different things in whilst working, such as conflicts, and new ideas of how to improve the daily work. It’s good to find out what clubs are doing in other countries and work out how to try and replicate the initiatives for our supporters too.”
What actions are you looking to take to engage fans and further make a difference?
“We are beginning to start up a new structure of supporters from all different sections and groups called “The Supporters Council”. The Supporters Council is going to be an important thing for both the club and the supporters and we will work together in many situations such as marketing, campaign and planning our game activities together.
After identifying what is important to bring more people to our stadium in the future, we decided to take this step. The plan is to work in this way in the long term and not just a few times before a big game, marketing for the season ticket sales or our first game of the season. We believe this is going to be a big step and increase both communication, supporter perspective and inclusion in a positive way.”
What do you think has been the main benefit of the implementation of SLOs in Swedish football?
“I think the SLO role has been so important because of the trust from supporters, the clubs and the league. Even if it was a tough time in the beginning before I started as an SLO, the time and work was in our advantage. The trust, dialogue and positive behaviour has helped to increase our audience too”.
SD Europe would like to warmly thank Christopher Lindahl and IFK Göteborg for taking part in the SLO of the Month series.
You can read March’s SLO of the Month article here.
Contact us to find out more about the Supporter Liaison Officer role.