There are few better ways to learn new ideas and improve skills than exchange visits, and Swedish SLOs embarked on a three-day trip to the Netherlands in February as they finalised their preparations for the new season.
Organised by SEF, Svensk Elitfotboll, 14 supporter liaison officers from 11 different Swedish clubs took part in the exchange, a follow on from an exchange to Germany in 2016.
The SLOs had the opportunity to see their Dutch counterparts in action at SC Cambuur and AFC Ajax, hear about fan experiences in Holland from Supporterscollectief Netherland and discuss new ideas and improvements amongst their own group.
Arriving in the Netherlands on Friday, February 9th, the delegation had lunch and some initial discussions and presentations before travelling to the city of Leeuwarden. While there the group learned about SC Cambuur, a second division football club, and its supporters, fan culture and match day operations.
Saturday focused on SLO work in Sweden, complemented very much by contributions from Herjan Pullen of Supporterscollectief Nederland. Herjan explained the difficulties that fans in the Netherlands experience, including significant restrictions around away travel in the country. This helped to put some of the challenges faced in Sweden into an international context, which is always a useful exercise.
The group discussed their upcoming season’s launch events, training needs, how to identify business opportunities that can benefit supporters and how Sweden’s fan culture and democratic club model can be preserved alongside some of the developments happening in the game today.
“The SLOs have a difficult and challenging mission,” said Kaveh Sarvari, SEF, who organised the trip. “On the one hand, you work for the club and need to be loyal to your employer. On the other hand, trust is a key for the dialogue with the supporters to work and to avoid unnecessary frictions.
“My view is that the cooperation between the clubs, the league organisation and our supporters has been strengthened in recent years, and I think the SLOs have been an important contributing factor to it.”
The third and final day of the exchange continued in Amsterdam, where the delegation met with AFC Ajax’s main SLO, Henk Voors. He explained how his role works within the club and how he and his colleagues work on supporter-related issues.
“The trip to Germany was a valuable learning experience for everyone so we were anxious to follow up on it with another exchange,” said lead Djurgårdens IF SLO and SD Europe team member, Lena Gustafson Wiberg. “Not only did we get an opportunity to discuss the challenges and possibilities we face as SLOs in Sweden, we got to understand the challenges SLOs face in the Netherlands, and that helped us identify possible solutions and new approaches for our own work.”
Read Svensk Elitfotboll’s report from the visit here.