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The introduction of a new UEFA licensing requirement from season 2012/13 for all clubs to have an operating supporter liaison officer (SLO) marks an important new chapter in club-supporter relations and emphasises how important this relationship is considered.
Under Article 35 of the new UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, clubs will have the obligation to appoint an SLO to ensure a proper and constructive dialogue between a club and its fans. The move is the result of close cooperation between European football's governing body and Supporters Direct – the body that provides guidance and backing to fan groups in 17 countries throughout Europe.
The SLO concept, which has been under consideration for some time, has gained full approval from the national associations represented in the UEFA Club Licensing Committee and has been drawn up with the strong cooperation of Supporters Direct.
The concept, aimed at building a consensual and harmonious relationship with supporters, was presented and discussed at the European Football Fans' Congress in Barcelona last weekend organised by Football Supporters Europe (FSE). This event, the third of its kind, was attended by hundreds of fan representatives from around Europe who were given an opening address by William Gaillard, the personal adviser to the UEFA president, before a series of workshops where thoughts were exchanged between supporters and UEFA on a number of important projects including financial fair play and SLOs.
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 follow. Most importantly, SLOs must be credible with supporters, and therefore should have experience with, and contacts to, the networks in the club's fan base.
They inform supporters about relevant decisions made by the club's 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 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 in improving 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 focusing on developing and improving the dialogue between fans and clubs.
For further information on the supporter liaison officer project please contact Antonia.firstname.lastname@example.org and in relation to the UEFA club licensing regulations, Sefton Perry at email@example.com.
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