Lena Gustafson, one of the two Supporter Liaison Officers of Djurgardens IF explains her views on how the SLO project has helped improve the relationship between fans and the stakeholders and how important and useful embracing the project is for the clubs.
What was the situation like in Sweden before the SLO role was introduced?
I would say that before we implemented the SLO project the communication was poor in many ways. Obviously at some clubs it was worse than at others, especially with other stakeholders around football such as the arena companies, the police and so on. In Stockholm we had a situation in which the supporters clubs refused to talk to the police in the end or merely complained in some way. Since the SLO function was implemented in 2012 we have gone past that in the sense that the SLOs have been approved by the supporters clubs to speak to the police and serve as a kind of bridge in between. We also have an understanding with the supporters and the fans that the SLOs are talking to each other, to the SLOs of the other clubs. If the supporters clubs don't want to talk each other, it's OK for the SLOs to do so, in particular when it comes to sorting out any logistical problems that might come up before a big match. So instead of just silence we now have communication. The communication part doesn't always have to be seen, but the result will be, mostly in the form of information and feedback to the fans and the supporters and the people visiting our matches. And that has been a major improvement in that there is a totally new interface within the clubs that can be used not only by the fans, but also by the clubs internally, the police, the arenas, anyone more or less that needs to make a connection with the clubs, and that has made a difference.
How would you say the clubs have responded to the licensing requirement for the SLO?
I think that as far as I know compared with the rest of Europe our clubs have responded very well. When you work with clubs you work with different traditions and different backgrounds, depending on where you come from, so of course it's easier to implement at some clubs than at others. But on the whole I would have to say our clubs are very positive and the ones who had doubts in the beginning have seen the results of the work, which has made them swing to the positive side.
How has the matchday experience changed?
Again, it's down to that interface. The matchday experience has changed in that there's somebody who will listen to you, somebody who will note your complaint or maybe give you some encouragement by saying 'that was well done, keep on doing it'. There's somebody inside the club who sees things through the eyes of the visitor, taking notes and trying to see what's working and what isn't. As an SLO, I have to say that it's not as if the SLO tasks weren't being performed before, it's just that they were being performed by very many different people within the clubs. But by having an SLO within the club through the new SLO job, the security officer can focus on security, the marketing manager can focus on the VIP and marketing side of things. We've been able to take the workload off other people's shoulders so they can concentrate on what they are experts in. Suddenly our security officer can really knuckle down to sorting out the permits we get from the police before matches because he has more time now. Obviously, like everyone else he still has too many things to do, but I can take easy-peasy things off him such as talking to the supporters, organising the buses and stuff like that. I just inform him now.
If you had to sum up the difference since the introduction of the SLO role in one sentence, what would it be?
Improved communications all over. Just the fact that there is somebody to communicate with has improved things a lot. We still have a long way to go but we've started to increase the understanding between all the different stakeholders within football, by that I mean not just the understanding of fans, but also from fans for the other stakeholders. It works in all ways.