Huddersfield Town have had a remarkable season on and off the pitch, with the West Yorkshire side currently third in the Championship and enjoying big crowds at the John Smith's Stadium. We spoke to the club's SLO Nathan Hosker to find out more about his work behind the scenes...
FSF: What is the purpose of the SLO at Huddersfield Town, and how has the role changed since being introduced?
Nathan Hosker: The purpose of the supporter liaison officer role at Huddersfield Town is to act as a mediator between the club and the fanbase to collate, discuss and relay information that is beneficial to the supporters.
As the SLO is a voluntary role at the club, and not a full time position, I spend my evenings researching our opponents and finding out information from them which our supporters can use both home and away.
Every few weeks we hold what is known as the All Together Town meeting. This meeting has a diverse range of supporters on the panel and, along with directors from the club, it is essentially a think tank to see how the club can progress; and to share ideas between all.
Once these ideas have been agreed upon then they are taken out to the wider public to gain a consensus of opinions and then brought back in-house for further discussion and action.
FSF: What about matchdays? Do you go to games as the SLO?
NH: On a typical home matchday I would normally arrive at the ground for 1:30pm and this allows me the time to set up my SLO flag which I normally put out by the ticket office.
The following hour or so leading up to kick-off supporters are able to speak with me on a one-to-one basis about the club generally, a query or concern or even suggestions to improve the match day experience.
If a supporter does not get the chance to contact me prior to kick-off or would like further match day assistance then they are able to contact me via the SLO match day number. Fans can find this on our social media accounts, match day programmes, home tickets and on the electronic score board within the stadium.
On an away day supporters are able to find my contact details on our coach tickets and can look through the club’s charter should they need to speak with me.
Now that I am into my third season at the club, I can say that the role has gone from something that was an unknown quantity to being relatively well known. The role in the UK is new in comparison to our counterparts on the continent, but this enables us to learn from them.
FSF: What is your background, how did you come into supporter liaison work?
NH: My professional background is that of a software tester and I’ve supported Huddersfield Town from a very young age.
I’ve always wanted to be associated with the club either by being on the playing field or working with the backroom staff. I may not have made it as a professional footballer but I am extremely grateful to work with a brilliant set of people behind the scenes.
I liked the idea of being actively involved in helping people and I think this is what drove me to the SLO role when it became available.
I try to keep a positive outlook on life, so I told myself that when I applied for the role that if I heard back from the club it would a positive.
When I discovered that I had the chance to interview for the club I was over the moon, so you can imagine my delight in being told that I had secured the role.
Since then I have not looked back; I eagerly await each match day knowing somebody somewhere will have benefited from the work put in throughout the season.
FSF: What type of issues do supporters come to the club with most commonly? Have there been any significant issues or cases where the SLO has helped find a solution?
NH: The most common issues supporters come to the club about are to do with ticketing, catering, parking both at home and away games.
These are the sorts problems are the majority, if not all SLOs, will come across at all clubs. Good levels of communication between me and the club enable any pressing issues to be dealt with immediately.
FSF: What have fans cited as the most significant improvement since the introduction of supporter liaison work at Huddersfield?
NH: Since the introduction of the role at Huddersfield Town I would say that the fanbase has found it easier to have someone who is independent and accessible. SLOs are meant to sit on both sides of the fence and be able to speak with the club - relaying information back to supporters.
I’d say the communication between the supporter groups has improved considerably. Recently we were able to get a new supporters' group, the Proud Terriers, off the ground which was really pleasing. It’s there to help promote equality in football and to raise awareness of the LGBT community within the fanbase.
FSF:Is there any aspect of supporter liaison work that Huddersfield Town excel at particularly, and anything that the club is keen to improve?
NH: The club are exceptional at accommodating supporter requests and will always do their best to help fans gain the best match day experience possible.
As a family club we pride ourselves on being able to provide the right environment for all types of supporters. In the 2015-16 season the club won a ninth successive EFL Family Excellence award.
Across all clubs the SLO role requires a constant push in promoting what it's all about, and the positive impact it can have. Some clubs have sections on the website about the supporter liaison officer role and how it can benefit not only the fan base but the club as well in building rapport with supporters.
FSF: Attendances have shot up this season, is that solely down to the team’s form, or has off pitch work contributed?
NH: Our form on this pitch this year has been phenomenal. Every member of the squad deserves a massive pat on the back for the amount of effort that they have put in over the course of the season so far.
The manager David Wagner has instilled that family ethic into his squad and that has rubbed off in the performances on the pitch and in the stands. The NorthStandLoyal group are creating a great atmosphere that the club can be rightly be proud of; and long may it continue.
It’s not just down to the on the pitch activity that has helped the attendances rise.
Much credit has to be given to Mr Dean Hoyle and the board for introducing an attractive affordable season card offer. £179 for an adult for a whole season of home games is incredible value for money and this has been reflected throughout the other season cards where prices are £69 and an incredible £23 for under-eights.
Ticket offers leading up to home games have also helped keep the stands full at the John Smith's stadium. Flash sales of £2 and £4 for tickets in our Fantastic Media lower stand for our latest game against Reading proved to be very popular.
A lot of credit has to go to commercial director Sean Jarvis, commercial manager Lesley Turner and the rest of the staff behind the scenes.
I must also pay credit to Luke Cowan who does a fantastic job in keeping the retail operation in full flow, Sue Beaumont and the team in the ticket office and last but certainly not least the supporter partnership executives who help me at the drop of a hat with any query I have; Rachel Taylor and Robyn Deegan.
FSF: How do you see the role improving and evolving over the coming seasons?
NH: At the moment, I’m the only SLO but as time goes on, people will begin to see the benefits of having multiple SLOs throughout the club. Hopefully, in the near future, there will be a few more people within the role to help continually improve the match day experience for all Huddersfield Town supporters.
Thanks to Superbeest for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under CC license.