For August’s edition of SLO of the Month, the series looks to the Russian National League, the country’s second tier of football, to the Supporter Liaison Officer at FC Baltica Kaliningrad.
Nikita Zakharov was one of 50 Russian SLO’s attending SD Europe’s and UEFA’s SLO training programme last year. His club FC Baltica Kaliningrad was formed in 1954, and their biggest achievement so far came in 1996 when they finished 7th in the Russian top division.
How did you become the Supporter Liaison Officer at your club?
“For about ten years I have been an active fan of my club. I was mainly involved in organising events and leading active support at matches. I attended away matches as well. When the SLO position became vacant in the club, I was invited for an interview. A day later, I was informed that they wanted me to be the new SLO.”
What are some of the achievements that you have had in the role?
“A month ago, I was awarded “SLO of the Season award” by the Football National League for the season 2020-2021.”
Do you work in a dedicated SLO team? How many SLOs are at your club?
“There is one SLO in our club. Two and a half years ago, there were changes in the structure of the club. The SLO now works in the operations department.”
Which people and groups are you in liaison with as the SLO?
“I arrange my work in such a way as to speak as much as possible with all people attending the matches of our club. With fans and very young spectators, I have my own live blog on Instagram, which is gaining popularity every day, so it’s easier for people to contact me and to get information. It is also important to have communication with other clubs’ SLOs. We conduct a live broadcast and answer questions from fans with my colleagues from other clubs before each home match.”
Can you think of an example when it has benefited your club to have you as an SLO?
“When I started working in the club, we began to organise larger-scale performances. Fans’ support and atmosphere during home games just got better. The number of problems with fans has significantly decreased too. This is the result of good communication between the club and fans and of informing fans about what is happening in the club.”
What are the main benefits you have experienced from taking part in the SLO Network meetings?
“During the communication at the SLO Network meetings, it becomes clear that most of our problems are similar, and therefore so are the solutions. This exchange of experience is very useful in our work.”
What are your short-term and long-term goals in your role?
“Working in the long term, I want to achieve such goals as an atmospheric culture of support in the stadium with no aggressive behaviour in the tribunes. This can be achieved by daily work: communication with fans, informing about the activities of the football club and creating a positive image of the club among fans.”
What actions are you looking to take to engage fans and further make a difference?
“I have worked out an algorithm of actions. Every week I draw up a plan for working in these areas, discuss with the management, do small test polls with fans and study the online communities of fans. Reaching all groups of fans is important for me to work properly. For example, we organised a meeting with fans with live communication and everyone was satisfied.”
What do you think has been the main benefit of the implementation of SLOs in Russian football?
“In my opinion, the main idea of introducing SLO into Russian football is to build a bridge in communication between fans and club management. This works in most clubs. I see great positive changes in Russian football in this area in recent years.”
SD Europe would like to warmly thank Nikita Zakharov and FC Baltica Kaliningrad for taking part in the SLO of the Month series.
You can read the previous SLO of the Month article here.
Contact us to find out more about the Supporter Liaison Officer role.