For the second ‘SLO of the Month’ in 2021, the series turns its attention to the Bulgarian first division to the Supporter Liaison Officer at SFC Etar Veliko Tarnovo.
Tsvetomir Boyadzhiev has been the Supporter Liaison Officer at SFC Etar Veliko Tarnovo for almost 6 years. He has also represented Bulgaria at meetings of the European SLO network and was a member of the Bulgarian Football Union delegation that took part in an exchange visit to Jagiellonia Białystok as part of SD Europe’s LIAISE project
Tsvetomir during the LIAISE visit to Poland
What have been the main challenges when communicating with fans during the Covid-19 pandemic?
“The last year, marred by Covid-19 has been a difficult time for everyone. We as fans know we are football mad but last year was a real eye opener of how obsessed with the game we really are (globally), how much it means to our lives and realising how many people actually work directly or even more indirectly connected to football and had their jobs affected as well.
The challenges of communication with fans have been mainly down to the frustration of fans missing out on being at matches. In Bulgaria, we had a mixed situation of periods with fully closed stadia, then at times we were allowed up to 50% of capacity in the stands or no more than a 1000 people per stand. It’s been challenging to convince people to keep their distance from each other so they take care of the health of fellow fans in the stands. At the same time, we have to assure the authorities that fans will be disciplined enough so they keep the game open for fans. I think we were doing fine, but maybe my view was not shared by authorities since at the moment we are having a situation where despite the rising numbers of new Covid-19 cases, everything else is allowed to work – restaurants, bars, shopping centres, cinemas, theatres – yet the stadium which is in the open and quite big, compared to the regular crowds attracted nowadays, remains closed. It’s been good that at least TV shows the games and social media allows people to vent out their energy.”
What are some of the achievements that you have had in this role at your club?
“The role of the SLO in Bulgarian football still has a long way to grow into it reaches its full potential, but still through the last 5-6 years that I have been involved I believe we have better communication and understanding between stakeholders – fans, club, security. I have helped better explain some club decisions or express the fans’ needs in certain cases.”
Do you work in a dedicated SLO team? How many SLOs are at your club?
“Bulgarian teams normally have just one SLO. Officially I am the only one at the club, but I have another guy helping when I cannot attend games as well as we are in close cooperation with the stadium manager, who is also the match security officer. I am not a full time staff member of the club and doing my SLO duties on a voluntary basis.”
Which people and groups are you in liaison with as the SLO?
“I come originally from the more vocal group of our club fans – singing, choreography, travelling, so I keep good contacts with them and the different groups inside of this sector. I also try to communicate with other parties, but we are yet to establish a well recognised communication routine with these other groups.”
What kind of tools do you use to communicate with the fanbase? Meetings, dedicated communications channels?
“I have regular personal meetings with fans, as well as we use dedicated groups on Facebook.”
What are the main benefits you have experienced from taking part in the SLO network meetings?
“It was a fabulous time! Meeting like minded people from all over Europe, sharing experience, expertise, knowledge. A great time for anyone who loves the game and wants to work in the field of better service to the fans. I’ve met lovely people with so many good stories to share, learned a lot of new things from experts or people who have been involved longer in the SLO roles. Made some notes which I try to take into my work and all in all had great fun.”
What are your short-term and long-term goals in your role?
“Short term, to continue working for improved communication between club and fans. Long term I hope to help the club offer better service to the people at the stadium. We have a long way to go in offering safety, security and most of all service to our fans, just to get close to mid-European standards, so there is a vast room for improvement. I hope we go the right way so we make people happier and also grow the numbers of the regular fans so this will be a big benefit for the development of the club.”
What actions are you looking to take to engage fans and further make a difference?
“We have a very good core of fans that are positive in their mind and actions, so it’s a great help. I can easily communicate with them and share ideas which we can do together. I also like learning new ideas from other clubs and sharing them with our supporters so we see what we can “import” in our fan culture that can help the club and make things better for everyone involved.”
What do you think has been the main benefit of the implementation of SLOs in Bulgarian football?
“It’s still some way off the recognised role of the SLO, but a totally positive experience, since we can communicate better – club, police, security, local authorities and fans, which absolutely guarantees that sooner rather than later we will grow and improve in our work and service.”
SD Europe would like to warmly thank Tsvetomir and SFC Etar Veliko Tarnovo for taking part in the SLO of the Month series.
You can read February’s SLO of the Month article here