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Away From Home: Lines of communication crucial

Away From Home: Lines of communication crucial
THAT was fortunate. If Watford had lost another game I would have run out of melancholic things to say.

Admittedly a draw is not the greatest result - although against an overachieving Burnley side, to come away from Turf Moor with a point is acceptable - but it is much more promising than the previous weeks' showings, especially the lacklustre performance against Yeovil Town; a team who themselves recorded another win on Tuesday night to impress critics.

The Yeovil defeat - a fourth straight loss at home - may have been cataclysmic for Gianfranco Zola's future; certainly the hordes of Twitter layabouts seeped out of the woodwork in their desire to turn football on its head by staying in bed.

The sense of empowerment felt by supporters when 140 characters begs itself for writing infuriates some - including myself.

Whilst I fully accept the need for supporters' voices to be heard by the club, there are certainly many better ways than social media outlets.

UEFA brought into effect the legislation regarding Supporter Liaison Officers (SLO) only last season, and currently all four top divisions in England require the club has one.

The need for a club to have a contact between officials and level-headed supporters allows valuable insight into the ownership of the club, and control over the off-field support - including Ultras and their rights, and arranging transport links for away games.

The Bundesliga - a current template for the successful running of a professional football league - has been ahead of the curve in regards to SLO roles for many years now with the job being appointed to fans, by fans.

Borussia Monchengladbach first appointed an SLO in 1989 to improve the relationship between the club and its fans, and nowadays all Bundesliga clubs have at least one; Borussia Dortmund - forever the indie-kids - have five, the most in Europe.

Whilst certain aspects are prevalent in the English game, such as transport arrangements being arranged by clubs with subsidised fees for certain matches, the lawful inclusion of the SLO has been handed off as a unneeded distraction. For the majority of clubs in England, the title of Supporter Liaison Officer has been given to an existing PR employee, unaware of the ramifications of such a role.

Whilst this lack of awareness is no fault of the individual in question, the clubs have to take responsibility for their lack of respect towards the fans.

As has been all too clear recently, if you want on field success, off-field respect is needed. For all the booing and cries of 'This is embarrassing!' emanating at full time following the Yeovil defeat a sense of despair fills the logical fan.

If a link between club and fans was available - more frequently than the oft-occurring fans forums - the concerns of the crowd - about players supposed infighting, about Zola's tactical decisions, about the current construction of the East Stand - could be voiced when needed.

For all my love of the English game, there are numerous ways that improvement is so clearly visible, and the introduction of true Supporter Liaison Officers seems like a reasonable step forward in an era when social media gives us the illusion of closeness, but is actually widening the difference between club, player and fan.

In the current climate - as England proposes a move to safe-standing stadiums and the use of flares has increased tenfold - where stadium safety is increasingly involving police and courts, an increase in atmosphere at the expense of crime seems like a fantastic vision.

And if the club start answering questions openly, the social media gremlins may just return to hiding.

Writer:Billy Hawkins
Date:Wednesday December 4 2013
Time: 4:59PM

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Valid points
04/12/2013 22:04:00
Must admit, I hadn't heard of these SLOs, but seems like a good idea & have to agree with the points Billy has raised.
04/12/2013 22:26:00
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