The SLO role is relatively new in British football. UEFA Club Licensing and Fair Play regulations required that clubs appoint SLOs from the start of the 2012/2013 season, with the aim of ensuring better communication between clubs and fans. The role is more established in Germany so it would be unrealistic to expect British SLOs to operate in the same way as the Borussia Mönchengladbach SLO, shown in the UEFA video. However, there is much in that video that I’d like to see happening over here. I was particularly impressed by the way the German SLO had the authority to intervene in disputes between fans and security officers and, for example, persuaded an official to let a fan into the stadium with a flag that had a pole a few centimetres longer than allowed in the rules.
I have been trying to find out how SLOs operate at other English clubs and have found a variety of practices. At some clubs, the SLO role has been given to an employee and at other clubs, the SLOs are volunteer supporters. Crewe has done both and shares the SLO role between the Customer Service Manager and a supporter. Birmingham City have volunteer liaison officers to assist supporters at games but I think they only work on matchdays (see page 20 of Customer Charter).
Several people that I contacted mentioned that the SLO needs to be known to the fans. I think this is especially true for fans travelling to away matches who should know how to contact their SLO before, during and after the games. I think it would help if Birmingham City published this kind of information on their website and also in the programmes.
The SLO role is like that of an interpreter, explaining the club’s point of view to the fans and their views to the club. It’s a big job and an important one. I hope that Sarah’s replacement will build on her good work and that the SLO role will be developed further.
I contacted SLOs at the following clubs and would like to thank all who answered my questions. I have included some links for anyone who wants to find out more.
|Brighton & Hove Albion||Sarah Gould is Supporter Services Manager and SLO|
|Crewe Alexandra||Bev Dyer, Customer Service Manager, and David Tomlinson, lifelong fan, work jointly in the role of SLO||SLO website page|
|Doncaster Rovers||Dean Medcalf and Sheila Lynch are volunteer SLOs||Doncaster SLO website page and job description|
|Stoke City||Anthony Emmerson is the SLO and an employee; he works with the Supporters Council, chaired by Angela Smith||Stoke SLO website page and Supporters Council page|
|Wigan Athletic||Jason Taylor and Ian Wadsworth are volunteer SLOs||Wigan SLO website page|