Earlier this month, the SD Europe Supporter Liaison Officer team took part in two interesting meetings in Lisbon, Portugal, hosted by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF). The week was highlighted by the third and final LIAISE workshop, with a LIAISE exchange visit to the match between Vitória de Guimarães and Sporting Braga, the tenth in a series of 12, taking place as well.
This was the third workshop under SD Europe’s supporter liaison and engagement project LIAISE, which is funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme and UEFA. It was hosted at the FPF’s Cidade do Futebol home and attended by representatives from the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU), Czech Football League (LFA), French Football Federation (FFF), French Football League (LFP), Swedish Football League (SEF), French National Supporters Association (ANS), Swedish Football Supporters Union (SFSU) and Football Supporters Europe (FSE).
— SD Europe (@SDEurope07) November 7, 2019
Among the participants were SLOs from PFC Beroe Stara Zagora, Bohemians Prague, Slovan Liberec and newly crowned Swedish champions, Djurgårdens IF. Independent evaluator Adam Brown of Substance and lead project consultant David Bohannan of the European Think Tank of Football Safety Experts were also in attendance. Unfortunately, the delegation of the Polish Football Association (PZPN) was caught up in the strike of Lufthansa flight attendants and unable to attend.
The aim of the third LIAISE workshop was to look at other methods of supporter engagement and the manner that they fit into the overall goal of improving dialogue and communication between the football and public authorities.
After the welcome to the Portuguese Football Federation by André Seabra, the Director of the Portugal Football School, the opening day started with a session on the ‘Involvement of supporters in decision-making processes’ run by SD Europe CEO, Antonia Hagemann, discussing supporter empowerment. This was followed by an in-depth session on ‘Increasing supporter participation’, with Adam Brown of Substance providing insights into the history of supporter involvement in England stretching back to the 1980s.
— SD Europe (@SDEurope07) November 7, 2019
In a parallel session, SLOs from almost every top-division club in Portugal discussed topical issues with a panel of experts from the visiting LIAISE delegation. This proved to be a valuable exchange for both sides and provided several suggestions for improving the Portuguese SLO system that can now be taken on board by the FPF.
On the second day of the workshop, Loukas Anastasiadis, the Membership Development Manager at SD Europe, opened the activities by outlining the funding opportunities under the UEFA HatTrick programme for 2020-2024 cycle, followed by an ‘End-of-project activities’ review by Adam Brown of Substance. The day ended with Ronan Evain, CEO of FSE, and Paul Corkery from the Welsh Fans Embassy presenting about ‘Other fan dialogue tools’ with their Fans Embassies program, leading the discussion, an introduction to the SLO role at national team level by SD Europe’s Head of SLO Training, Lena Gustafson-Wiberg.
On the last day of the workshop, Dr Martha Newson of the Centre of Social Cohesion, at the University of Oxford, gave new insights into football violence and the role that social bonding plays in it. This really was a fascinating presentation that sparked a lively discussion and left participations with plenty of food for thought about how this impacts their current activities in the area of spectator-related disorder and what to do about it.
— SD Europe (@SDEurope07) November 8, 2019
The weekend ended with representatives of the BFU and LFO attending the game between Vitória de Guimarães and Sporting Braga at the invitation of the FPF for the 10th official LIAISE exchange visit. Also in attendance as the external expert was Anton Cernat of the Romanian NFIP plus LIAISE rapporteur Tony Ernst and LIAISE project manager Stuart Dykes representing SD Europe.
The participants attended the pre-match organisation meeting with representatives of both clubs, safety officers, SLOs, police, stewards and the fire brigade and were allowed ample time to quiz some of the main protagonists. Much was learned about the organisation of the derby, supporter liaison issues, crowd management, and the importance of the SLO role in Portugal. There was even enough time for a quick trip to Braga to interview the SLO there and view the preparations for the transportation of Braga supporters to the game.
Back in Guimarães, the participants observed the arrival of fans, and especially the reception of the Braga supporters. There were also opportunities to view the work done by the SLOs before and during the game. The visit closed with a final review of the day over sandwiches and drinks in Porto before the long trip back to Lisbon.
We are attending the pre-match organisation meeting with representatives of both clubs, safety officers, SLOs, police, stewards, fire brigade, etc. for the matchday observation visit of the derby between Vitoria Guimaraes and Sporting Braga #LIAISE @EuSport @UEFA pic.twitter.com/scrqgxhLNg
— SD Europe (@SDEurope07) November 10, 2019
During the visit, the delegation had the opportunity to exchange views and insights with the club SLO’s about matchday procedures, pre-match organisation meetings, security exchanges, and the arrival and admission of the away fans.
SD Europe CEO Antonia Hagemann commented on the combined LIAISE workshop and exchange visit: “With the LIAISE project coming to a close, this extended weekend saw a true celebration of the possibilities of collaboration, observation, and supporter inclusion. The case study learning and exchange visit are critical for the development of the international network, and for SLOs in Europe to know they have a community to learn from.”
All in all, this proved a very fruitful five days for all concerned. Our thanks go out to the FPF for the wonderful organisation of the event, and in particular to SLO coordinator Jorge Silvério, safety officer Marco Abreu, Andrè Seabra, Ana Godinho and Catarina Martins. Obrigado!