For April’s edition of Supporter Liaison Officer of the Month, with 11 years experience in the position, we spoke to a veteran of the role from one of Czechia’s most successful football clubs.
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.
Tomas has played an instrumental part in the development of SLOs in his country by working with the League Association to further establish the role in parallel with his his contribution to SD Europe’s LIAISE project.
Tomas speaking at a Police training event in Prague
What are some of the achievements that you have had in this role at your club?
“Eleven years ago I started to work for the club as someone who came from the active fan scene. It was not an easy decision for me but I found it to be my “moral duty” to help the club. In that time the SLO concept was almost unknown, except for Germany. From the beginning I had to justify my position and combine it with other duties in the club, mostly in PR and marketing field. Since that time the circumstances have changed and the SLO concept is now internationally recognized and supported. I am happy to be still part of the club and its fan scene and help both sides as the SLO if needed although the range of my duties and responsibilities inside the club management has risen. It’s not ideal and many times it’s challenging for me but better to have a part-time SLO than no SLO.
The best moments for the fans but most demanding for me as the SLO were the international away trips during our Europa League seasons… Hopefully we will have the chance soon again.”
What would be your view on more clubs embracing SLOs?
“Sometimes it’s not easy to explain to the club management as well as to the fan base the benefits of establishing the SLO role but I hope that thanks to many good examples from various clubs and countries there will be more and more clubs with active SLOs in the future.”
Do you work in a dedicated SLO team? How many SLOs are at your club?
“There is just me. I have few volunteers from the fan base who can help me on match days but it’s still more about self-organization of the fans which works very good in our club…”
Display by FC Slovan Liberec fans
Which personnel and groups are you in liaison with as the SLO?
“I am in touch with the active fan scene on a daily basis but also with unorganized fans from the other stands including older fans, families with children, foreign supporters (we have some in Germany and Poland), disabled fans etc.
On the other side I work closely with our security manager, but sometimes also with the players, coaches and of course with the club board. We are a small club and we all know each other, which is similar also in the fan base.
Naturally I also get in touch with the police, delegates or security managers and SLOs from the other clubs, train or bus companies and other people around home and away football matches.”
What kind of tools do you use to communicate with the fanbase? Meetings, dedicated communications channels?
“I meet with the fans personally not only on matchdays but anytime needed. Moreover we are in touch via mobile phone and social networks (e.g. in the internal fan forum). Almost all of the fans know me and I know them so there is no problem to contact each other and get updates.
Sometimes we organize meetings (e.g. internal meeting of ultras with the team captain or CEO, or just free accessible fan meeting with the coach etc.).“
A timely message from Liberec fans – “through good times and bad”
How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected your work?
“In the last weeks I have been working mostly from home. There are no matches since mid-March and there will be no matches with spectators in the next months. It’s sad but we have to adapt to the new situation. Hopefully we will have football matches with open stands no later than in the autumn. I just hope that the upcoming economic crisis doesn’t cause too serious problems to our club.”
What are your short-term and long-term goals in your role?
“I have enough experience to know that planning in football and especially in the SLO role doesn’t make much sense because the reality often brings unexpected and radical changes. My life and work goes rather from match to match.”
What actions are you looking to take to engage fans and further make a difference?
“On a club level but also on a national level I feel the need for establishing some formal group or association to represent the interests of the active supporters. Something like that is still missing in our country. I would like to explain to fan representatives the possible benefits of taking this step. From my position I can help them with the recognition of such a new body.”
Can you tell us about how your SLO role is combined with other roles at the club, and how this works with you being the league’s SLO Coordinator too?
“In a mid-sized or even small club like ours the only chance to have a professional SLO is to combine his position with other duties in the club that he is paid for. But it doesn’t have only disadvantages for the SLO work. Sometimes it’s simpler to react to fan wishes because you don’t have to ask some other colleagues and you can change it yourself. And sometimes it’s funny for the fans to see me in the away section on some UEFA trip and next day on TV during the draw of the next round…
As the most experienced SLO in the country I was asked by the management of the League Association to help with establishing the SLO role among the Czech professional clubs. It was three years ago and until that moment no one took care about this topic on the national level. In fact, I think there should be someone else with bigger capacity for this important role but as long as there is no suitable candidate and a dedicated budget for them I try to do my best to help them.”
Finally, where do you see SLO work going next in Czechia?
“There is still a long way to go but I hope that with the help of SD Europe we can continue to enhance the role of SLOs in Czech clubs and get more recognition for our work.”
SD Europe would like to warmly thank Tomas and FC Slovan Liberec for taking part in the SLO of the Month series.
You can follow Tomas on Twitter here.
Miss the last edition of ‘SLO of the Month’? Read it here.