In 2012, UEFA introduced a requirement for all clubs competing in their competitions to appoint a Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) to act as their key contact point for supporters, and in 2017 this also became a Scottish FA requirement for clubs seeking to obtain a “silver” or “gold” licence. Club licensing sets out standards and procedures by which clubs will be assessed as a basis for continuous improvement of many aspects of football – ground safety, pitch size and surface type, floodlight quality, facilities for supporters, provision for disabled supporters, media facilities, first aid and medical provision, coaching standards, ground tenure, financial management processes, and so on – the list is almost endless! Raith Rovers currently hold a “bronze” licence, and aspire to hold “silver” or even higher – at present, only three Scottish clubs (Celtic, Hibs and St Mirren) hold the highest level of licence.
The SFA support the development of this role through their partnership with Supporters Direct Scotland, who provide training to SLOs, access to best practice from around Europe, and host networking and development events for the SLOs throughout Scotland.
What does an SLO do?
The overarching theme in the work of SLOs is communication. The SLO should be available as the main point of contact at the club for supporters, managing the dialogue between the fans and the club. A lot of this work is done on matchdays – liaising and building relationships with the various supporter groups, supporter liaison officers from visiting clubs, the football association, the league association, the police, etc. Having someone visible and accessible to supporters, at home and on away trips, can help to improve the atmosphere in the stadium and also de-escalate any potentially problematic incidents. In Sweden, where the SLO role has been established for several years, they have seen a 20% decrease in violent disorder and an 11% increase in attendances in recent years and attribute these improvements to the work done by the SLOs.
SLOs and Supporter Representatives
In Scotland, 25 of our 42 senior clubs have an SLO (in some cases with more than one person sharing the role) with a further 4 clubs, including Raith Rovers, actively seeking to appoint one in the coming months. By the end of 2018 most clubs in the top two divisions and half of the clubs in each of League One and League Two are likely to have an SLO. Around a third of these clubs also, like Raith Rovers, have an elected supporter representative on their board of directors – a common misconception is that these two roles are the same, or that having one diminishes the effectiveness of the other. In fact, the opposite is true as these two people will work closely together – having someone in the stand or on the terraces on matchdays can allow the supporter in the boardroom to concentrate on developing strong relationships with colleagues at their own club and with visiting directors, while also having a better understanding of the issues and concerns of every other supporter in the stadium.
Get involved – you could be our SLO!
Like many roles at clubs like ours, the SLO network in Scotland relies heavily on volunteers. It is a demanding role, but an incredibly rewarding one. SLOs at other clubs find that they forge a closer bond with their club, and make lasting friendships as a result of their interaction with fellow supporters, football club staff, visiting supporters – and even the guys and girls in yellow jackets at the edge of the pitch!
If you would like to know more about SLOs, or would like to be considered for the role of SLO at Raith Rovers, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photos of SLOs in action at Hammarby, Sweden, are copyright of Supporters Direct Europe)