The recent UEFA Europa League qualifying match between HJK and IFK Gothenburg in Helsinki presented a great opportunity for a bilateral exchange of experiences on the role of the SLO.
Two days of discussions began on matchday -1 when Ville Nylund, event manager and SLO coordinator of the Football Association of Finland (FAF), met with the Christian Olsson, a member of IFK’s SLO team, to talk about the SLO work in Gothenburg and Sweden as a whole with a view to developing the role in Finland.
Christian also liaised with Kalle Kontu, the SLO of HJK, at the matchday-1 meeting to discuss all the necessary matchday arrangements, such as away fan-friendly pubs and bars, transportation time and method to the stadium from the various meeting points, spaces for tifos and flags, stadium facilities, safety-related issues, post-match activities, and more. A similar meeting was also held between the two at the organisational meeting the following day, when the final details and changes to the agreed plan were discussed. The two SLOs had also cooperated before the first leg in Sweden to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible.
Both Ville and Kalle were impressed by the extent to which the SLO work is integrated in the competition arrangements in Sweden compared with the still developing perception of the role in Finland. Unlike IFK Gothenburg, for example, who have three full- or part-time SLOs, Finnish clubs mainly use volunteers or existing staff with other roles in the club.
“This was a really positive experience for me,” said Kalle afterwards. “It was first time I had had the opportunity to work at both legs and see how things are done in Sweden. The week gave me much more than I expected. I would recommend that all the SLOs in Finland work with their counterparts at UEFA matches to learn a new way of thinking, make new contacts with international colleagues and benefit from positive cooperations.”
Overall, the bilateral meeting offered many interesting insights for the Football Association of Finland, who will now look at ways of improving the cooperation between their SLOs, especially in the UEFA competitions. This will not only improve the matchday experience for supporters and other stakeholders, but also help Finnish SLOs to broaden their perspective of the role, become acquainted with new ideas and approaches, get to know their European colleagues and make new contacts.
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.