“The SLO role is a really great opportunity to work closer with and get a better understanding of supporters – including their needs and points of view”
For March 2022’s SLO of the Month, SD Europe spoke to the Supporter Liaison Officer at Norwegian 2nd tier side SK Brann, Morten Talhaug.
Morten, a lifelong SK Brann supporter, can be considered as one of Europe’s most experienced in the role having been the club’s SLO since 2012.
SK Brann have spent the majority of their history in the Norwegian 1st tier, the Eliteserien, which they most recently won in 2007, but were relegated in 2021. SK Brann has also recently transitioned through some difficulties off the pitch which the club is now past. Morten offers an insight into his experiences navigating these difficulties and how the club’s community of supporters have rallied together to help the football club through them.
For those new to the Supporter Liaison Officer of the Month series, each month, SD Europe speaks to an SLO to learn more about their experiences at their club and share them with the network!
What are some of the achievements that you have had as SLO at SK Brann?
“There are so many people who have contributed to strengthening the supporter community at SK Brann over many years, so I don’t want to take too much credit alone. I think we have managed to create an SLO role that fits the Brann supporters. Today the club values its supporters as a resource and an asset, and that’s due to many years of getting Brann and the supporters to work together.”
Do you work in a dedicated SLO team? How many SLOs are at your club?
“I am Brann’s only SLO, but we have started a process to recruit an SLO for the club’s new women’s team.”
What would your advice be to other Norwegian clubs considering implementing an SLO?
“Norwegian clubs are fortunate to have a lot of good SLOs. We see that more and more clubs are getting the role setup and in place. The SLO role is a really great opportunity to work closer with and get a better understanding of supporters – including their needs and points of view. It allows clubs to attach their most important and loyal groups even closer to the club. I say go for it!”
What kind of tools do you use to communicate with the fanbase? Meetings, dedicated communications channels?
“My most important channel for communication is the meeting with the supporters on match day, at both home and away games. I am also represented in Brann’s members committee where we discuss important issues for the club. We also use the club’s web page to publish important information on tickets and travel information.”
Does the club’s member-run (50+1) structure and the SLO role compliment each other?
“Supporters make up a big share of the membership and are the largest group of active members. In that way the SLO is a good link to an important part of the membership. The club’s close cooperation with the supporters also gives a lot of opportunities to discuss and test issues as they come along.”
What do you think has been the main benefit of the implementation of SLOs in Norwegian football?
“We have been able to formalise some partnerships that have been less structured before. Police, security and host teams have been given more established roles. We now have the experience and continuity that makes it easier to predict for the club’s supporters on match days. Last, but not least we have built a network of SLOs in Norway who can support each other and share experiences. This is of huge value.”
How do you manage your relationship with supporters when performances on the pitch aren’t going well? You were relegated last season but still kept the SLO function?
“As bad as it was, the relegation was just the worst of our many trials last season. The club faced a crisis both on and off the pitch. Some players used our stadium as a place for late night parties while we were solidly at the bottom of the league. Also, there was a crisis in the management of the club, ending with the chairman and several board members leaving their positions after the relegation in December. Despite the total chaos and crisis we saw a lot of positivity and initiative from the supporters community. People really came together for the club.
After the scandal with the late night party the club chose to dismiss three players. At the first match after the scandal the supporters chose to show our disgust by sitting down and being totally quiet for 19 minutes and 8 seconds. (Brann was founded in 1908) This was a firm and symbolic statement that created unity in one of the club’s darkest hours. During Autumn there was a huge mobilisation for the club in the supporter community, and the supporters were a positive driving force for Brann. There was in many ways a crisis of confidence between the club’s leadership and the supporters, but at the same time we experienced a great desire to show that the club is so much more than the people running out on the pitch.”
You have been called the “best SLO in Norway” by some of your colleagues. Why do you think that is?
“Norway has so many good SLOs, so that’s really nice to hear. We are a good bunch who appreciate each other as colleagues despite the rivalry between our clubs. I am fortunate to have a large and exciting community of supporters to work with, and that has also given me a lot of experiences which can be useful to others.”
Brann is a club that has a lot of supporters, and very vocal ones as well. How does that affect your job?
“The size and variety of our supporters community makes it very exciting to work with. The great passion for Brann is a joy to work with but can also be challenging at times. Often it is extremely useful to have the SLO as a first line when we play away games. Things that could create conflict with security and police are then solved through dialogue with the SLO.”
You participated in the SLO training that SD Europe ran in Norway. What are your takeaways from that experience?
“We are only halfway through, but so far the SLO education programme has been good! I am looking forward to the second part!”
SD Europe would like to warmly thank Morten Talhaug and SK Brann for taking part in the SLO of the Month series.
SD Europe recently completed the first pilot of its new SLO consultancy with clubs, helping English club AFC Wimbledon to appoint a new SLO team. Contact us to find out more about the Supporter Liaison Officer role and SLO club consultancy here.