A significant milestone was reached in October 2022 as the Council of the European Union adopted a resolution on the Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) role.
Football clubs competing in European club competitions have been required to appoint an SLO under Uefa licensing since 2011. The continuing challenge, however, has been the inconsistent implementation of the role at clubs and national associations, while it’s also still not properly recognised by police in a number of countries. This is what makes the adoption of the resolution so significant.
The resolution, which sets out recommendations for EU member states to implement, focuses on the good practice of police and their coordination with SLOs. In being adopted by the Council of the European Union, the resolution gives the SLO role even greater credibility and puts the expectation and responsibility on EU member states and their police to follow the recommendations.
So, what does this mean for fans? There is now the potential to guide police to better take into consideration the needs, habits and expectations of fans, particularly when travelling to away matches, through an improved cooperation with the SLO.
Because of their background commonly coming from the supporter base and working for the football club or national association, SLOs are best placed to help explain the likely impact and potential negative outcomes from police strategic movements.
What is an SLO?
Supporter liaison officers (SLOs) act as a bridge between football clubs and supporters by providing a two-way flow of information around key topical issues. They are recruited by football clubs or national associations on a paid or voluntary basis.
An SLO works to ensure that fans’ voices are heard within every club’s internal structure while working to ensure an enjoyable match day experience for everyone in the stadium.
The resolution outlines that the relationship between police contacts and SLOs has the potential to help to break down any misconceptions or prejudices between police and SLOs resulting in a better understanding of their roles and contributing to a reduction of any mistrust or suspicion.
Speaking on the resolution being adopted, FSE’s Head of SLO Development Lena Gustafson-Wiberg said: “This resolution shines the light towards a future of better policing and, in turn, better spectator experiences at football matches because it places even more emphasis on the importance of dialogue and cooperation with supporter liaison officers.
“Whilst many countries have made significant strides forward in the proper implementation of the SLO role across the Uefa region and have constructive relations with police, a large number of countries still need to catch up. We are still seeing failures in policing at football matches that could be avoided and that need to be addressed.”
An extra motivation is that properly implemented cooperation has the potential to save national associations, football clubs and police services resources and money. Will every EU member state enact changes now? No, but the resolution creates a platform to begin conversations in those countries where improvement is needed and correctly scrutinise when there are mistakes.”
The development of the SLO role at the European level has been ongoing for over 10 years through cooperation with stakeholders and its EU-funded projects. This previous work set the foundations for the resolution by raising the profile and credibility of the SLO role. In particular, the pan-European SLO development project LIASE (Liaison-based Integrated Approach to Improving Supporter Engagement) culminated in the publication of an intellectual output, which this resolution is based on.
The next steps for FSE will be to work with stakeholders to promote the implementation of the resolution in addition to a new EU-funded project focusing on the professional development of the SLO role. FSE facilitates the implementation of the SLO role on behalf of UEFA and is available to provide additional support where needed by contacting us here.