Who loves fans? Who doesn’t?
Posted by John Beech on July 26, 2010
There’s an interesting pair of stories in the news today.
First comes the news (1) that UEFA have introduced a new requirement in their club licensing requirements – the necessity for a club to appoint an operating supporter liaison officer (SLO). The purpose of this rather clumsily named role is to “to ensure a proper and constructive dialogue between a club and its fans“. The need for this is so fundamental and obvious that it is amazing that UEFA have only just come up with it! In fact, they did so at the prompting of our own Supporters Direct (SD) and its SD Europe arm. The SD website (2) offers this expansion on what exactly an SLO is:
Supporter Liaison Officers at clubs already exist in a limited number of European countries and primarily help improve the dialogue between the fans and the clubs they support. Most importantly, SLOs must be credible with fans, and therefore should have experience with and contacts to the networks in the fanbase at the club.
They inform the fans about relevant decisions made by the club management board and, in the other direction, communicate the needs of the fans to the board, as well as building relationships – not just with various fan groups and initiatives, but with the police and security officers, They will also engage with fan liaison officers of other clubs before matches to ensure that the fans behave in accordance with security guidelines.
To implement the new requirements, a network of SLO project contacts from each national governing body across Europe will be created and work together with the UEFA club licensing team and Supporters Direct to assist clubs and supporter groups improve communication in each of the 53 UEFA member associations. This year more than 600 clubs applied for a UEFA licence with many more applying for domestic licences based on the same or similar principles. Hence, the broad scope and significance of the SLO project.
Like the licensing system itself, the implementation and development of supporter liaison officers will be a tool to raise minimum standards; a dynamic system changing over time, and focussing on developing and improving the dialogue between the fans and the clubs.
An excellent development – here’s hoping it would be accepted throughout the English football pyramid rather than just by clubs hoping to play in Europe.
On the other hand, there is the news (3) that the vast majority (it appears to be all except Arsenal and Liverpool) of the Premier League clubs are simply ignoring the 2000 Premier League Charter which pledged that replica strips would be released every two seasons at a minimum. Worst offenders are Tottenham, who have launched three new kits every year for six seasons in a row. This coming season they will have different sponsors, and hence, it is reported, shirts, for their Cup games, resulting in no fewer than six shirts being offered, although at the time of writing only three shirts are being offered on the club website (4).
It’s not exactly difficult to see which is more pro-fan – UEFA or the Premier League.