- What is an SLO?
- How can I contact the SLO at my club?
- Whose idea was it to introduce SLOs?
- My club says it doesn't need an SLO. What should I do?
- What role can the FSF play?
- What are the benefits of SLOs?
- Who is the “target audience” for SLOs?
- Downloads/resources (inc. UEFA SLO Handbook)
- Contact the FSF
- Latest SLO blogs and news
An SLO is an appointee of the club who is responsible for building bridges between the club and its fans. SLOs might communicate fans’ opinions to a club’s board or senior staff members and should also liaise with stewards, police and counterparts at opposition clubs. The majority are club employees, although some are volunteers, and a club can appoint more than one.
UEFA describes the SLO as an “advocate of both sides, representing the interests of the club (or national association/league) AND those of the supporters”. The capitalisation is UEFA’s and highlights that an effective SLO must be more than a club employee who just defends his employers from fans’ criticism.
An SLO who is loved by the club but hated by the fans is probably failing in his or her remit, and the same goes in reverse. “If the SLO puts too much weight on only one horse…the two sides will drift apart,” says UEFA.
An SLO’s work is dependent on the credibility they enjoy with both parties, as Patrick Vestphael, SLO at Brøndby IF, makes clear. “I’ve been hired by the fans and the club. The club just pays the fans’ contribution to my wages,” explains Patrick.
In fact, to do the job properly an SLO needs to work with more than just the club and fans’ groups. Police, stewards, fanzines and fansites, even the relevant leagues and national associations, must buy into the role. A good SLO will understand the unique dynamics that exist at his or her club.
UEFA make clear that they see the role as that of communicator, rather than firefighter. The SLO should try and prevent trouble from happening in the first place. It should be a proactive, not reactive role, preventing fires from happening rather than dampening flames.
That work can occur on matchdays and non-matchdays alike but it shouldn’t be limited to security. “If they're pinned down only to discussing violence or hooliganism issues it just doesn't work. It needs to be about general fan issues and communication as well as prevention of hooliganism,” says Antonia Hagemann of Supporters Direct.
Stuart Dykes, SLO Project Coordinator at SD Europe, says that “good progress has been made but there is still a vey long way to go”. Stuart’s working with national FAs to help educate clubs on the role of SLOs. He admits time is needed but emphasizes just how important it was to get SLOs “anchored” into UEFA’s club licensing agreement.
Historically the FSF has played the role of SLO in many domestic disputes. That could be anything from advice for fans, to public appeals, to gathering incident accounts, to acting as an intermediary between supporters and clubs, the police or other non-governmental bodies. But not every fan knows of the FSF and club-specific SLOs might be able to reach fans who would otherwise have gone without help.
UEFA’s endorsed Supporter Liaison Officers (SLOs) as part of their Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations. Article 35 dictated that clubs who wished to compete in UEFA competitions were required to appoint an SLO by the 2012/13 season.
The concept was originally discussed at the European Football Fans' Congress in Barcelona, July 2010. It was the third event of its kind organised by Football Supporters Europe, to whom the FSF is an affiliated member.
Speaking to fans in October 2011 William Gaillard, senior adviser to UEFA President Michel Platini, said: "Supporter liaison is all about relationship management. The SLO will also be a key factor in the safety and security efforts of national associations.
"But supporter liaison is not just about safety and security, it's about giving supporters better opportunities to enjoy themselves. Clubs need to look at supporters in a different light and view them as people who can contribute. Without supporters there is no modern football, only entertainment."
Under the Premier League’s own rules clubs must now appoint “a dedicated and identified official” to act as a club’s SLO. Football League clubs have also agreed to appoint an individual to perform a similar role and “develop further constructive and open dialogue” with fans. Non-league clubs do not need to have an SLO, although some understand the benefit and do (e.g. FC United). If your club insists it doesn't need an SLO let us know via email@example.com.
The principles behind SLOs are sound and can form the basis for positive developments in the relationship between fan and club if they’re properly implemented. In some countries SLO models have been in place for decades and some fans argue that SLOs shouldn’t be appointed from within.
“It’s no good simply taking someone from the marketing department and calling them the new SLO. It has to be someone from the fan base,” argues Brøndby IF’s Patrick Vestphael. But not every club can afford to hire a new employee and UEFA highlight functioning models such as Tomáš Čarnogurský, SLO at Slovan Liberec, who is from the club’s PR department.
In our experience SLOs on these shores have almost exclusively been appointed from within the club. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule but most SLOs in England and Wales have shared job titles and a background in PR or the ticket office.
While the FSF has some reservations about this approach we are very keen to see SLOs succeed and will do our utmost to support them and publicise their role to the wider football fanbase. If SLOs fulfill their proper functions fans will benefit, regardless of their background. The FSF commits to:
- Building a dedicated SLO section on the FSF website - offering case studies, best practice models, dos and don’ts, Q&As and explanations as to what is and isn’t in an SLOs remit.
- Providing a point of contact for all 92 SLOs - if non-league clubs choose to appoint SLOs they’ll be included too.
- Supporting individual SLOs by facilitating regional meetings - this is new territory for UK clubs and SLOs can only benefit from such networks.
- Promoting the role of SLOs via the FSF website, Twitter account @The_FSF and Facebook page.
- Engaging SLOs in relevant issues that fans bring to the FSF.
Historically the FSF has often played something like the role of SLO. That could be anything from advice, to public appeals, to gathering incident accounts, to acting as an intermediary between fan and clubs, the police or other non-governmental bodies. But not everyone knows of the FSF and club-specific SLOs might be able to reach fans who would otherwise have gone without help.
- Direct lines of communication from fans to clubs/leagues/FAs
- Greater transparency on both sides leading to fewer misunderstandings
- Improved relations and greater insight into supporter views
- Better organised supporters and improved fans’ dialogue between rival clubs
- Less violence/better conflict management
- Improved atmospheres
- Financial benefits through closer identification of fans to clubs and increased revenue
- Fans’ groups - clubs, fanzines, trusts etc
- National and European football associations
- “Unorganised fans” – unaffiliated, individual supporters
- Virtual fans - social media is a key communication method
- Potentially violent fans/hooligans - SLOs can “contribute to a reduction in violence using approaches based on prevention and de-escalation”
- Fan projects – such as anti-racist groups or those designed to prevent violence
- Disabled supporters - to improve access and general standards
- Families and children - football must be family friendly
- Under-represented groups - SLOs should seek to encourage greater participation
- Club and its management - without buy-in from the club an SLOs job is impossible
- Safety staff and police - SLOs should debrief with safety and security staff after matchdays to identify problems/trends and give fans’ feedback
- SLOs of other clubs - to exchange information on travel arrangements, stadium regulations and local dos/don’tsWho
- Download UEFA's Supporter Liaison Officer Handbook (English version, 2011 edition) here...
- Cardiff City Away Fan Guide 2013/14...
- Are you an SLO who wants to get in touch with us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The FSF Supporter Liaison Officer homepage...