While most of the attention on UEFA’s new club licensing requirements focused on the “financial fair play rules”, which are to be implemented from 2012/13 and require clubs to eventually break even, other regulations within the document should be of interest to supporters too.
Under Article 35 of the new UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations clubs will have the obligation to appoint a Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) to ensure a proper and constructive dialogue between a club and its fans. As well as communicating fans’ opinions to a club’s board, and vice-versa, SLOs also liaise with stewards, police, and counterparts at opposing clubs. The move is a direct result of good work and close cooperation between European football's governing body and our friends at Supporters Direct (SD) who provide guidance and backing to fan groups in 17 countries throughout Europe.
While some fans may think clubs can ignore such orders, the punishment for doing so can actually be very severe. Any club who fails to meet UEFA’s regulations will not be granted a license to compete in European competition. UEFA have proven they mean business too - Spanish side Real Mallorca recently fell foul of the current rules and look likely to miss out on European competition this season.
The concept, aimed at building a consensual and harmonious relationship with supporters, was presented and discussed at the European Football Fans' Congress in Barcelona earlier this month. Organised by Football Supporters Europe, of whom the FSF is an affiliated member, the 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, adviser to UEFA president Michel Platini.
At clubs in some European countries SLOs already exist to build bridges between clubs and their supporters and UEFA’s new plans should take this to another level. To implement the new requirements a network of SLO contacts from each national governing body across Europe will be created. Together with the UEFA club licensing team SD will assist clubs and supporter groups in improving relations in each of the 53 UEFA member associations.
The reach of the SLO project is potentially massive, 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. The implementation and development of SLOs will be a tool to raise minimum standards and improve the often fractious dialogue between fans and clubs.
For further information on the supporter liaison officer project please contact Antonia Hagemann at SD or, in relation to the UEFA club licensing regulations, Sefton Perry at UEFA.
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