SLO Spotlight: Djurgårdens IF 

The SLO Spotlight interview series is back for its third edition. This time the attention turns to Swedish football with Djurgårdens IF and SLO Nils Ek. Previously the series has heard from the supporter liaison officers at Czech club AC Sparta Praha and Scottish club Aberdeen FC

Djurgårdens IF has a team of four SLOs, with two working matchdays only. Many who are familiar with Football Supporters Europe will know Lena Gustafson-Wiberg, the organisation’s Head of SLO Training & Development who also works for Djurgårdens IF as an SLO. This interview features her colleague Nils Ek. 

Djurgårdens IF are one of Sweden’s biggest clubs. It was founded in 1891, and has since won the Swedish league 12 times and the Swedish cup five times. In 2023 it reached a milestone when the club surpassed 25,000 members.  

Sweden has been amongst Europe’s leading football nations in terms of supporter dialogue and engagement in recent years. Alongside its 50+1, member-run clubs, and cooperative approach to the culture in the stands, the SLO role has been implemented throughout its professional and semi-professional clubs for more than 10 years now.  

How long have you been your club’s SLO, and what made you decide to want to do the role for your club?  

“I have been working as an SLO at Djurgårdens IF since 2015. I was recruited by the club because of my background as a supporter and experience with the supporters’ podcast – DIFPodden.” 

What are you most proud of achieving since becoming your club’s SLO? 

“Being included in the transition of young fans from the family and youth sections into leading roles in the Sofia-stand [the standing area behind the goal where active fans stand].” 

You are taking part in FSE’s EU project Future of Football. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement and what you hope to learn and achieve?  

“I was recruited as one of the experts that is currently engaging with young people in football, and I am hoping to be able to pass on knowledge to other clubs about youth engagement and how important that is. In return, I hope to be inspired by the other people that I meet in this group, and to further contribute to the work being done here in Sweden.” 

You are one of the people at your club that are active in trying to engage new, younger fans with the club. Can you tell us about this area of work?” 

“I was one of the founders of our youth supporters’ section, Apberget [translation: the Monkey Mountain, a name that alludes to the club’s name Djurgården, which literally translates into the Animal Farm]. It’s a section dedicated to kids and, in 2024, we will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. My engagement today includes the promotion of this youth-section, arranging activities such as away games, and stadium tours.” 

If you were giving advice to other SLOs, what do you think is the key to success in the role?  

“Simply paying attention to all supporters no matter the age, gender, or section that they are in. In addition, having good communication skills is key.” 

What advice would you give to those new to the SLO role?  

“Do the basic work: speak to people online, at the pubs and away games, absorb as much information as you can to create a better understanding of the current situation for supporters at your club.” 

If you could give one simple message to all supporters of your club about the SLO role, what would it be? 

“That I am a person who is acting for them in all situations, no matter if you are in the Ultras or family section.” 

You took part in the UEFA Academy training for Swedish SLOs, what was your experience of it?  

“It was a great learning experience for me, and I would recommend it to all of my fellow SLO colleagues who has not participated.” 

How well do you know your counterparts in the other Swedish clubs? Is there a working relationship between all the Swedish SLOs?  

“Absolutely. Although we are rivals on the pitch, they are my extended colleagues and we work very well together.” 

Finally, how influential has the SLO role been in making Sweden, which is one of the more developed footballing countries when it comes to dialogue with supporters?  

“I think that it has played a huge role in terms of reducing ticket prices, assisting travelling away fans and also improving the attendances for the whole league.” 

FSE would like to thank Nils Ek and Djurgårdens IF for taking part in the series.    

Learn more about SLOs and FSE’s role in developing the position here.    

Contact us to find out more about the Supporter Liaison Officer role here.  

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