The role of Supporters Liaison Officer at Ibrox

The usual hysteria attended the announcement and subsequent speculation on which candidates had got to interview stage and who might be the eventual SLO.  My problem is not with who gets the job but whether, under it’s current terms of reference, it is a job worth having.

Having been involved with fans groups for yonks I’ve seen the concept of the role develop and attended several conference over the years where the issue has been discussed in depth.  In short, there are two distinct versions of the job - the European and the British.  

For shorthand, the European one sees the SLOs as coming from the fans organisations and being a facilitator.  The British one tends to see the SLO as an adjunct to the role of security within the club, keeping a lid on and defusing potential problems.  The internet being what it is I’ve no doubt some will no proceed to quote from various regulations but I contend that my view is broadly correct and that in many case in the UK the SLO is regarded as box-ticking appointment due to UEFA regulations requiring one at a club.

Sadly, in adverting the job in the way they have I feel the club have fallen at the first hurdle in replacing Jim Hannah.  The job description would choke a horse and appears to have been cobbled together from various sources - there’s work for three people in there.  Then they make the SLO report to the head of security as if fans were a problem rather than an asset.  

What I had hoped for - albeit two years after the Spivs were booted out - was a proper recognition of how vital the fans were - and that a Fans Department would be created and properly staffed and resourced.  Someone to handle the admin and consider the legal and organisational issues perhaps - and beside him/her two campaigners and enthusiasts like Sie Leslie or Houstie.

  Rangers problems are deep rooted - educating and mobilising the fans could be a tremendous part of solving our problems with the media and politicians and with any genuine security considerations.  The fact that anyone inside Ibrox would put Alan Harris onto a shortlist tells you all you need to know about how out of touch the management are.

At this point I’m going to positively invite the shriekers and naysayers to go mental by comparing what we are up to with the most obvious model - across the city at Parkhead.  There the SLO reports directly to the Chief Executive and the Board - that’s how seriously they take getting the fans on board - for good or ill.  No mucking about.  I can hear the keyboards clacking about John-Paul Taylor sending daft letters about Celtic fans smelling to their season ticket holders, to do so would be to spectacularly miss the point.   

Have a look at how the big European clubs resource their SLOs - its miles ahead of what we have had or will continue to have at Ibrox.

My disappointment is that after two years of the new board being in control we have a classic example of some of the other mistakes they have made - simply replacing Jim Hannah with someone doing the same tasks in the same way is not a solution to any of the really big issues the fans and the club face.

It’s short-sighted to do the same old and do it in the same way - doing it on the cheap may ticket a box inside the organigram of managerial responsibility but in the long-run it will be a waste of both time and money.

Best of luck to the successful candidate, you’re going to need it.