The Future Of Supporter Liaison: The SLO Training Programme

"To see their enthusiasm and their willingness to develop themselves, develop the role and develop as a group is amazing”
Lena delivers pilot SLO training in Denmark, January 2020
Lena delivers pilot SLO training in Denmark, January 2020

Following on from the articles on returning to football as an SLO during the pandemic and being a national team SLO, we complete the hattrick of feature interviews with our Head of Supporter Liaison Officer Training, Lena Gustafson-Wiberg, with the focus turning to SD Europe’s SLO training partnership with UEFA Academy.


In addition to her role with SD Europe, Lena is also an SLO for Swedish club Djurgårdens IF and the Swedish national teams.


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WHAT DOES THE SLO TRAINING PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN SD EUROPE AND THE UEFA FOR ACADEMY INVOLVE?

“It involves the delivery of a proper training program for SLOs. It's given us the opportunity to combine the expertise from both organisations, with SD Europe responsible for the programme build up and content. Whilst UEFA Academy is responsible for composing the educational activity and the delivery of the program, both face to face and online.”


HOW DID THIS PARTNERSHIP COME ABOUT BETWEEN SD EUROPE AND UEFA ACADEMY?

“It was a while ago that we identified the need for training for SLOs. After some discussions, we approached UEFA & UEFA Academy with a proposal. The discussions were very fruitful with considerable mutual respect between the two organizations and resulted in the programme coming to fruition.”


WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE OF THE PARTNERSHIP AND WHAT NEED DOES IT MEET?

“It puts a quality stamp on SLO training, which is a huge milestone. It helps us to engage with the national associations and so far the feedback has been very positive, but obviously the aim is to do something consistent, something long term, and something that can develop over time.”


WHAT IS THE INTEREST IN TAKING PART IN THE TRAINING FROM NATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS BEING LIKE SO FAR AND HOW MANY SLO HAVE TAKEN PART?

“We carried out two pilot training sessions in Denmark and Russia in which the first phases were face to face and finished online. Following the pilot training, Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal, finished their training last year. We now have more national associations taking part such as Norway and Romania. There has been a bigger interest than we were anticipating which is fantastic, we are working together closely with the national associations to deliver a high quality programme tailored for them. We’ve already held at least the first part of the SLO training with more than ten national associations, with more than a hundred SLOs receiving the training.”


WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN LIKE FROM SLOS AFTER RECEIVING THE TRAINING?

“Mostly positive, but also constructive criticism on how we shape the program, which is really helpful and important to us because we're not sitting here thinking we are happy, we still want to develop and improve. But I have to say that one thing we expected and one thing that's confirmed, it's that SLOs appreciate to be able to get together, preferably face to face, but if not online, to discuss things that are related to them and to actually get training on specifics that is important to the role and there's been a lack of training in so many countries for such a long time that there is almost starvation on it. It's been well received. Our intention is to improve and develop with the help of their feedback.”


DO YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL WHEN YOU STARTED IN YOUR ROLE AS AN SLO TO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO BENEFIT FROM SUCH TRAINING?

“Of course. However, I'm a lucky one. I'm a Swedish SLO. Which means we have done training every year up until the pandemic since two 2012. So I have first hand seen how training on everything from conflict management and mediation to media training can assist me in my role as an SLO. This experience has helped me significantly in my role as SD Europe's Head of SLO Training. I have been able to take what I have learnt in my 10 years as an SLO and channel it into the SLO training."


SD EUROPE HAS NOW PUBLISHED A NEW SLO HANDBOOK, A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR SLOS, WILL YOU BE ABLE TO USE THIS IN YOUR TRAINING?

“Definitely. Every time it comes to training, it's good to be able to illustrate it with real life examples. Obviously, you can work with hypotheses and scenarios, which we do quite a lot in the training, this is also something I do when I take part in security officer training in other countries. You work with scenarios, but to have real life examples and to be able to tie situations to real life people, it makes it more tangible for the ones taking part.”


WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING THING ABOUT THE TRAINING PROGRAM SO FAR?

“To actually meet SLOs both face to face and online and to see them meet and to hear the discussions, to see them actively take part. To see their enthusiasm and their willingness to develop themselves, develop the role and develop as a group is amazing. That gives me a lot of energy.”



With the SLO Education Programme well underway in several countries across Europe with over one hundred SLOs benefiting, hear from Jeremy Lubbert, from the Security Department at the Royal Belgian Football Association, after Belgium finished its second part of the training:


“This second part was also a great success, as our SLOs were taught during two days by outstanding teachers about "soft skills" and "working with fans". Together with the practical experience already gained on the field, I think that the Belgian SLOs now have enough knowledge to perform their function in the best possible way. As a federation, we would like to continue to provide additional information or training moments in the future to support this rather new function as much as possible”.

SD Europe facilitates the implementation of the supporter liaison officer (SLO) role on behalf of UEFA and is available to provide additional support where needed. The new ‘Practical Guide To Supporter Liaison’ by UEFA and SD Europe is out now. You can read more about our work here: Implementing the SLO. Get in touch here..