Fourteen SLOs from eleven Swedish clubs were fed with new impressions, ideas and lessons when this year’s SLO trip took off to the Netherlands together with Kaveh Sarvari, league representative and organizer. During three well-planned days, participants attended a conference as well as visits to AFC Ajax in Amsterdam and SC Cambuur in Leeuwarden.
”A great and important trip for me as a new SLO, partly for the visits to Ajax and Cambuur, but also because I got to know and share experiences with SLOs from other Swedish clubs”, says Lucas Ingeson, a new SLO in AFC Eskilstuna.
After arriving in Amsterdam, the study visit began with lunch and a presentation of all participants, a mixed collection with three new SLOs, but also with SLOs with many years of experience in their role. Thereafter, the SLOs went to the city of Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands, where the SLO and club manager of SC Cambuur in the second division spoke about the club, its supporters, their football culture and the club work with their supporters. After walking around the stadium, the day ended with watching the match between Cambuur and MVV Maastricht. The away fans had made the longest away trip in the Netherlands, three hours by bus, to see their team take an unexpected 2-0 victory.
Saturday’s conference section began with a presentation of how the away travel is handled in the Netherlands. Herjan Pullen from Supporterscollectief Nederland, the Dutch official fan union, explained how the supporter environment and disposal still suffer from the very strict measures introduced in the Netherlands during the 80’s and 90’s. The fans work for ”normalization”, but much remains to be done. Many of the matches in the two highest divisions still have restrictions for away supporters, for example, in the form that everyone has to go on organized buses or trains where food and drink can not be served.
”When you see and hear how it works in other countries, I usually appreciate all the benefits in Swedish football rather than the things we do not have. It is easy to look at other countries and be inspired, but I also would like to say that many countries should be inspired by us”, says Christopher Lindahl, SLO at IFK Göteborg.
”It is extremely important that we develop in the right direction, but also to continue to protect the success factors we already have in the Swedish supporters culture.”
Jonne Skärlund, SLO in AIK, agrees.
”In addition to getting to share experiences and thoughts from other SLOs, it’s interesting that trips like this to other clubs in Europe confirms that we are working in the right way with dialogue and communication to our supporters. It is interesting to see how far we have come in our thinking.”
During the conference, the SLOs also discussed how to get supporters more involved in the season launch events for Allsvenskan and Superettan, which training that needs to exist for our SLOs, how to find business opportunities that can both involve and benefit the supporters collective and how the current digitization of the football can be utilized a way that does not adversely affect the supporter culture.
”My view is that the cooperation between the clubs, the league organization and our supporters has been strengthened in recent years, and I think the SLOs have been an important contributing factor to it. The SLOs have a difficult and challenging mission. On the one hand, you work for the club and need to be loyal to its employer, on the other hand, trust is a key for the dialogue with the supporters to work and to avoid unnecessary frictions. I’m learning more and more about the supporter culture and I am fascinated by the power and commitment our supporters contribute to our national football”,says Kaveh, who is responsible for event development at Swedish Elitefootball.
On Saturday the group also discussed new challenges for 2018 and already existing focus areas. Among other things, the group talked about how to continue protecting the club democracy and how the upcoming political election in Sweden could affect football. Many other different situations were discussed during the day, both how they were handled and how they could be handled in the future.
”Although our club does not have tens of thousands of supporters and much of what was discussed during the conference rarely happens in our club, it was very useful to hear how the other clubs handle different events. I bring with me many impressions back home that will make me better prepared for new situations”, says Lucas Ingeson.
The Sunday meeting started with a visit to Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA where Henk Voors, the main SLO in Ajax, spoke about where he fits into their organization and how they work with their supporter issues. A model that is quite close to the Swedish, although there were also a number of differences based on new differences between Swedish and Dutch supporter culture. The scale of Ajax’s work was also slightly larger considering their 42,000 season cardholders and around 100,000 members. A successful weekend was rounded off to see Ajax win 2-1 against Twente.
”Every opportunity SLOs meet and have time to talk about events, thoughts and experiences gives us much more than you can imagine. We are a small profession and need opportunities like these to develop”, concludes Christopher Lindahl.