A range of stakeholders from across the Belgian football family gathered for a landmark SLO meeting in Brussels on 7 November.
The event was organised by the Jupiler Pro League and the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA/KBVB) and attended by officials of the two governing bodies, club representatives, SLOs and supporters of various clubs.
The meeting heard Stijn Van Bever outline the Pro League vision of the role of SLOs in Belgium. Speaking on behalf of the Football Cell at the Ministry of the Interior, Heidi Deridder spoke about the importance of SLOs for improving relations with supporters and helping to ensure football matches are safe and enjoyable occasions.
Two different approaches to the work with fans were explained by Michael Mathot of Fancoaching Charleroi, an independent organisation that uses a social work approach to build relations with supporters, and Dirk Vos, one of three SLOs at KAA Gent. The Europa League club are playing a pioneer SLO role in Belgium and Dirk gave a detailed presentation on the work of the volunteer SLO team there.
Nico De Pauw, safety officer at the URBSFA/KBVB, presented a case study on the successful work with supporters of the national team, including the fans embassies at EURO 2016. And finally, Stuart Dykes, SLO coordinator at SD Europe, highlighted some best practice examples from Germany and Sweden to show just what can be achieved with the right approach.
In the medium term, then, we should expect to see the SLO role become mandatory rather than just a recommendation. This will lead to a professionalisation of the work, though clubs will still be at liberty to choose whether to work with full-time or volunteer SLOs. Even if volunteers are used, they will receive tax-free expenses and be provided with the resources and facilities to do the job. All SLOs will also be issued with official accreditation. Given the situation in Belgium until now, the event represents a major step forward and augurs very well for the future.
Under Article 35 of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, clubs across Europe are required to appoint a Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) to ensure proper and constructive discourse between them and their fans. The SLO project originated in 2009 as a result of detailed talks between UEFA and SD Europe. It was approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in 2010, with SD Europe appointed to manage its implementation across UEFA’s 55 member associations. If you would like to learn more, visit the SLO section on the SD Europe website or get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.