Following an impromptu month-long hiatus, SD Europe is delighted to reconvene the SLO of the Month editorial series.
For newcomers, this series is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Supporter Liaison Officer role. You can learn more about the Supporter Liaison Officer role here.
For March’s edition, we had the pleasure of speaking to Dave Messenger who is SLO at Premier League side Watford FC. Dave’s role as SLO is tied in closely with his responsibilities as the Hornets’ Disability Access Officer. Last year, Dave received recognition for his work at the Football Supporters’ Association (national English and Welsh supporters organisation) Annual Awards by being named ‘SLO of the Year’.
Dave Messenger (left) with his FSA award
Below, we gain an insight into the experience of an Supporter Liaison Officer in the Premier League and the challenges facing SLOs during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
What are some of the achievements that you have had in this role at your club?
“There are a few that stand out. Opening the club’s Sensory Room in December 2016 was a great moment and we have now had more than 100 families use the facility on a matchday, with 12 of those now transitioned to general access areas of the stadium. I have also been instrumental in supporting our LGBT supporters’ group and managing the relationship between the club and our atmosphere group, the 1881 Movement. Between the groups they produced a memorable rainbow mosaic display at a home game and I continue to help all of our supporters’ groups across the world to stay connected to our club.”
What would be your view on more clubs embracing SLOs?
“It can only be a positive for all clubs to fully embrace the SLO role. It’s so important for supporters to have a conduit to the club and it’s a two-way street, as clubs can easily gauge the feelings of their supporters by having someone in regular contact.”
Do you work in a dedicated SLO team? How many SLOs are at your club?
“While I am the only SLO I do have an admin assistant and also have a team of 18 matchday ‘Meet and Greeters’ who work outside the stadium and provide vital feedback on the matchday experience at Vicarage Road.”
Which personnel and groups are you in liaison with as the SLO?
“Essentially, any and every Watford supporter can make contact as I’m the first port of call in resolving individual issues. I’m in regular contact with the 1881 Movement, our atmosphere group, as well as the Proud Hornets LGBT supporters’ group and WFC Enables, which is our Disabled Supporters Association. Internally, I work closely with our Ticketing team to ensure supporters have an input to our ticket allocation processes, our Stadium Safety team to work on keeping people safe in the stadium and our Equality and Diversity lead so I can help share our key messages in this ever-important area in our supporter’s minds.”
What kind of tools do you use to communicate with the fanbase? Meetings, dedicated communications channels?
“Being part of our Media and Communications team, I find it easier than most SLOs to use the club’s official website and social media channels to deliver key messages. I also attend every match home and away to maintain a visible presence on matchdays. I host regular meetings with our DSA and our ‘Supporters Speak’ focus group. We also hold regular ‘At Our Place’ supporter forums which are held at the stadium and are attended by all of the club’s senior management team, first team coach and players.”
What kind of help can fans give to your daily activity and what do you think are the areas where fans can contribute to the match experience and safety?
“I think gathering supporter’s feedback is an essential part of the SLO role. I share all comments and suggestions with relevant colleagues and we use those to shape our actions and policies.”
What are your short-term and long-term goals in your role?
“With the current Covid-19 situation my short-term goals relate to helping our supporters through this unprecedented period. We’ve already set up a ‘Hornets at Home’ scheme to assist the most vulnerable amongst our supporters and have started a ‘Friends from afar’ series on our website, where we are asking our supporters to write a blog of both their current situation as well as their memories as Watford supporters.
Longer term, we are focussing on our equality work and are currently working towards the Advanced level of the Premier League equality standard, so I’ll be looking to engage further with our supporters to help us achieve the standard.”
What actions are you looking to take to engage fans and further make a difference?
“More of the same – continue to be a visible and vocal presence at matches and ensure as many supporters as possible know how to make contact and share their thoughts with us.”
As you have been a part of the European SLO Network Group, what do you feel are the main differences between English SLOs and SLOs in other parts of Europe?
“The main difference seems to be the matchday involvement, particularly at away games. While I attend every match, and pre-match communication between SLOs is excellent, very few of the SLOs in England travel regularly which is something we need to address. As more clubs fully embrace the SLO role I hope this can further improve. “
SD Europe would like to warmly thank Dave and Watford Football Club for taking part in the SLO of the Month series.
You can follow Dave Messenger on Twitter here.
Miss the last edition of ‘SLO of the Month’? Read it here.