St Mirren SLOS
St Mirren Supporters Liaison Officers
Fan Liaison Officers were initially introduced by Borussia Monchengladbach in 1989 and by the Bundesliga in 1992. Following the success in improving relationships between clubs and fans that resulted in a measured reduction of hooliganism and improved attendances, UEFA later endorsed SLOs as part of their Club Licensing Regulations in 2010, stating that all clubs competing in UEFA competitions were required to appoint a Supporter Liaison Officer.
Although some clubs in Scotland had already adopted the principle it also recently became a requirement adopted by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) within their club licensing regulations. This new rule combined with John Allison from the Fans Council and John White from SMiSA having previously been proposing the implementation of an SLO role at St. Mirren resulted in the club announcing in May 2017 that both individuals had been appointed the role of St. Mirren Supporter Liaison Officers.
The role of the SLO, although founded on the principle of public relations, can be significantly different for each club depending on what those involved see as being the most beneficial areas for improvement at their own clubs.
The objectives and responsibilities of the St. Mirren SLOs give some indication of what will be required at St. Mirren but both SLOs have personal views and opinions on how they can best develop the role for the benefit of the fans and the club for the future.
John White's initial aim is for the role of SLO to gain respect from the club and the authorities and for it to become established as an integral part of St Mirren FC by gaining credibility with the supporters. Longer term we should also remember that in nine years’ time through the SMiSA #buythebuds venture that the fans will become the majority shareholders of our club and the more supporters contribute to and understand the running of the club the better. We all need to work towards the future betterment of our club and we see the SLO role being part of that positive transition.
Similarly John Allison’s hope is that both working together they can develop the role so that it gains respect and trust from the fan base, the authorities and of course the Club that is essential for the success of the role. To also further expand the role so that eventually it will be the norm where SLOs are involved in the decision making process at clubs that directly affect the fans and their match day experience, rather than reacting and lobbying for changes to decisions already taken. Whilst also being realistic and have an understanding of the factors involved in the decision making process.
Although at St Mirren there is a good track record of being open with the fans there are still some gaps between the clubs and the fans understanding of each others expectations and responsibilities and the more that gap reduces the more everyone will benefit. The SLOs intend to do everything possible to close any gaps.
To support theirs and the clubs ambitions both SLOs recently attended an SLO Development day run by Supporters Direct Scotland in Dunfermline where issues such as the Behaviour at Football Act, best practice reviews and anti-discriminatory laws were analysed and discussed but one of the outstanding presentations was given by Mark Bradley on Fan Engagement. Mark provided some illuminating insights on how the English FA undertook a new 'family' market research exercise over a full season (similar in principle to a secret shopper that retail stores employ). The most significant outcome being that one club having taken action on the feedback, increased their family season ticket sales from 459 to 7,200 in 4 non-promotion seasons, using some very basic customer service principles not historically recognised by football clubs.
Hopefully by combining the ambitions that we all have for our club, with the passion we feel for it and when you ally that to some good ideas and shared experiences with other SLOs it can surely only be to the future benefit of St Mirren.