Football Supporters Europe (FSE) is delighted to announce details of its latest Erasmus+ funded project, which aims to take the development of the Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) role to the next level. The project, titled Towards the Professional Development of SLOs (TPDS), builds on 13 years of expertise of fan organisations’ driving the full and proper implementation of UEFA’s licensing requirement on supporter liaison.
Today, despite the wide embrace of the role across many of Europe’s leagues, there is no consistent approach to exactly what an SLO is or does, or what experience and personal characteristics are needed to be successful in the role. This comes at a time when SLOs are asked to deliver meaningful change for more stakeholders than ever before, fans, clubs, leagues, police, safety staff and many other stakeholders.
TPDS has been designed to identify the specific knowledge, skills, and attributes, commonly known as ‘occupational standards’, needed to excel in the SLO role. The objective in doing so is to help clubs and national associations hire the right people and existing SLOs to fulfil their potential. In parallel, working with four leading universities from across Europe, the project aims to establish pathways for individuals to learn and become experts in supporter liaison through a series of higher education degrees.
In addition, TPDS achieves another milestone for FSE by becoming its first project to feature a partner from South America. Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (COMNEBOL), the South American Football Confederation, is an official partner in the project, and FSE will work with their staff on developing a road map for the establishment of the SLO role on the continent.
FSE’s Head of SLO Development, Lena Gustafson Wiberg, said: “The SLO role has come a long way over the last 13 years, but it’s now at a stage where to give greater certainty to clubs, supporters, and SLOs themselves, there needs to be robust industry standards and access to professional education in place.
“Many supporters already engage with their club’s SLO. and know the value the role brings to their matchday experience, whether at home or away. This project will have a positive impact for fans because the more SLOs who receive tailored educational support on how best to perform their role, the better matchdays for more supporters across Europe.
“This is our third EU-funded project focused solely on the Supporter Liaison Officer role. We are delighted to be working with four progressive universities with a track record on delivering best in class education.
“To have COMNEBOL as a project partner also signals the recognition of FSE’s expertise in pushing the development and wide adoption of the SLO function for over a decade now. We are also pleased to have UEFA’s support for this project’s aims, following our continuing partnership via the UEFA Academy where we jointly provide concise and specific training to SLOs through their National Associations.”
Along with FSE, the project partners in TPDS are:
- University of Limoges (France)
- University of Kassel (Germany)
- University of Gdansk (Poland)
- University of Malmö (Sweden)
- European Observatoire Of Sport & Employment (France)
- Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol – COMNEBOL (Paraguay)
Focusing on three countries (France, Sweden and Poland), which are all in varying stages of their SLO development journey, TPDS is geared towards establishing higher education courses specifically focused on the SLO role in partnership with a university in each. The University of Kassel in Germany, which has already created a higher education course centred on SLOs together with the University of Potsdam, will work with its counterpart universities in each country to offer its expertise and experience.
The existing UEFA Academy SLO Education Programme, led in partnership between FSE and UEFA, serves as a springboard for TPDS. The project was designed in response to the demand for the wider implementation of SLOs in European football and works in tandem with the SLO Education Programme by catering for different audiences in varying stages of their supporter liaison journey. The relevant football governing body in each country will also act as associate partners in TPDS to assist with achieving the project’s objectives.
With research and preparatory work already well underway, the project’s next step will be a two-day partners meeting in Frankfurt this October 2023 to be attended by all project partners and additional relevant football stakeholders.