In honour of the upcoming 10 year anniversary of the development of the Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) role, SD Europe is excited to announce a new monthly feature of various SLOs across Europe.
In what is an emotional, and exciting interview, we had the privilege to ask Eintracht Frankfurt SLO, Marc Francis to reflect on his role and the future of SLO development.
Commenting on the upcoming anniversary, SD Europe’s Head of SLO Implementation, Stuart Dykes, said: “It’s been a remarkable decade of progress, but there is still plenty of work to do. This new monthly feature will share the stories of the best of the best when it comes to SLO work. Starting with Marc and the fantastic work happening at Eintracht Frankfurt is a perfect way to kick off.”
1. What are some of the achievements the SLO department has had at your club?
“That is actually a question, which cannot be answered easily. Over the last 12 years working as a SLO for Eintracht Frankfurt, there have been so many things, which I would define as great achievements. But most of these would not have been possible if my predecessors had not laid a solid foundation, on which we could grow. This also applies to everybody, especially my co-workers and the management of our club, which supported us, our way of handling things and even all of the (sometimes crazy) ideas which we had and were able to put into practice.
Our greatest achievements as SLOs are not only in the club, but also throughout the network. We were able to build a strong acceptance in what we do and in the way that we do things, further developing quite a high level of trust and a high credibility as being part of the game“. Furthermore, we were able to get people to rely on us by using our expertise and knowledge of the fans and supporters.”
2. Would you say that it is vital looking to the future that all professional clubs appoint SLO’s?
“That depends on the way in which they are appointed. If the clubs just appoint SLOs to fulfill rules and regulations, but do not have a long-term concept which they believe in, then they should not appoint one at all. But, yes, I believe that every professional club should appoint SLOs that meet the expected standards, criteria, and belief in the concept and benefits of having SLOs as middlemen and middle women between all relevant groups. Further, support is essential so that he or she can evolve and get the job done. I believe it is still necessary to convince club owners, managers, presidents and even UEFA officials to fully implement the SLO model throughout Europe. “
3. Do you work in a dedicated SLO team? How many SLO’s are at your club?
“I started 12 years ago and became the first fully employed SLO at Eintracht Frankfurt. Over the years, we have grown and are constantly expanding. As of today, we are 5 SLOs working fulltime in our department, plus 2 SLOs working part-time. As a club playing in the 1st League you have to employ 3 SLOs (2 in the 2nd League). This is part of the licensing agreement and regulations between all the clubs and the German Football Association (DFL / Bundesliga). Without a doubt, the greatest achievement is that I have had the privilege of being part of a team of people (SLOs and others) that I would not exchange for anybody or anything!”
4. What personnel and groups do you liaise with as the SLO? What does your cooperation with Unsere Kurve entail?
“As SLOs we have to liaise with all of our fans, fan groups and organisations: the Fan- und Förderabteilung (FuFA), which is our supporters club, consisting of more than 56.000 fans which are organized in it, the Eintracht Frankfurt Fanclubverband e.V., which is responsible for more than 1.000 fan-clubs, our ultra groups, Nordwestkurve e.V. that unites all kinds of fans and lastly, we also liaise with our hooligan groups.
Basically, every fan and every fan group. Naturally we do also liaise with our fans with disabilities, as one of my SLO colleagues is also the disability access officer (DAO) of our club. Furthermore, we constantly liaise with the social-pedagogical fan project (Frankfurter Fanprojekt e.V.), as well as the police, the security, Eintracht colleagues, colleagues from other clubs and their security officers, the federation (DFB) and association (DFL), UEFA, the FSE network, travel-agencies, special interest groups, politicians, the media and so on. As you can see, there is a lot of liaising going on all the time.
As far as Unsere Kurve is concerned, I do not cooperate with them as much as I did when I was one of the spokespersons for the SLOs in Germany, but our supporters club (FuFA), which I am in close contact with, is quite an active member of Unsere Kurve.”
5. What are your short-term and long-term goals in your role?
“Short-term is simply preparing and accompanying our Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Europa League matches to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Long-term goals are definitely revolving around department growth, building a broader structure and possibly merging with other sectors to form new fields. Also, we are looking into specialising colleagues to further professionalise our structures.
Some of our other goals include more integration of major social causes. Two of my colleagues have just started with a program for our fans which includes several events concerning Eintracht fans during the Nazi regime. The current program includes a trip to the memorial grounds of the concentration camp in Terezin, where fans of ours were sent to. We believe that it is quite important to raise awareness and make people realise that this should never happen again.“
6. What actions are you looking to take to engage fans and further make a difference?
“First and foremost, we will always try to keep up an open, responsible, and reliable dialogue with our fans and the relevant network. I believe that everybody agrees on this concept and it is the only way to change, grow and develop trust to get to the next level.
I would like to find a good balance between the new and the old, between traditions and modern developments, between political correctness and sometimes a bit rough and raw kind of behavior that has always surrounded football. Football should stay a bit rough around the edges. It should maintain and honor its traditions, and also the simplicity that make it a worldwide phenomenon. But it should also integrate the new and functional developments of modern society. Football must also be socially responsible, especially regarding social inclusion, in order to transport values and take a stand against all kinds of discrimination. I hope that my department and all of Eintracht Frankfurt can play a small role in such movements.
Last but not least we should always work on giving our fans an affordable room in the stadium, which they will feel at home at and support them in any way possible, so that they can be creative, loud, colorful, do choreographies, sing, wave their flags, place their banners and stand and jump during the game. Because that‘s football!”