Tonia Vermeersch and Jonas Vandeplassche form SLO team at Essevee: “We are the link between fans and board”

Zulte Waregem announced an incoming transfer last week. Tonia Vermeersch and Jonas Vandeplassche make up the Essevee SLO team from now on. What kind of one? SLO stands for Supporter Liaison Officer. Our job is to discover concerns among fans.

First of all, to make something clear: Essevee already had an SLO under its wings. Christophe Devolder undertook that task. The man has recently started working as a security officer at De Boeren, and that position could no longer be combined with work in an SLO. So the club went looking for new people to volunteer in the club, because it is an unpaid task, roughly translated: without any kind of compensation. Any supporter can apply for the position. “After each season, SLO must win the trust of the Supporters Federation EsseveeFANS and the board of directors of SV Zulte Waregem”, says the Essevee website. We went to talk to the two new SLOs in Essevee: Tonia Vermeersch and Jonas Vandeplassche.

My first question is very simple: what exactly do you want to do?

Jonas Vandeplassche: “One can best describe the position of Supporter Liaison Officer as the link between the supporters and the board. Our duties are to detect concerns and see what is going on among the fans. It ranges from someone who thinks his pint hasn’t been cold for so many games in a row to practical things like hygiene in the toilets.”

So how does it work?

Vandeplassche: “There A notification form will soon be available on the website. But people can also approach us on match days. It is our goal to make the SLOs visible. Then we ensure that all comments are passed on to the right people in the club or on the board.”

How did you come to commit to this position in a society where the pressure is already very high on everyone?

Tonia Vermeersch: “It is actually a part of me. I have done union work in the company where I work for twenty years. Then you are, so to speak, a buffer between employer and employee in the interest of the employee. Where possible, I can help people do something more enjoyable.”

Vandeplassche: “I grew up with Zulte Waregem in my family. I have been watching Essevee since I was 6 years old. As far as I can remember, my first game happened to be against Deinze, our opponent in the cup next Wednesday. So I already had the connection to Zulte Waregem and I wanted to do something for the club. One plus one equals two.”

Are there things you want to avoid?

Vandeplassche: “Yes, we can see that the trend among some supporter groups is changing. Look at the violence in the final weeks before the World Cup in Qatar. I want to contribute something to the club and be an example to other fans. We don’t want to get into the negative spiral. At least it’s not so bad with our supporters. We want to maintain what is today.”

Is there a connection between you? Or did you both just apply for the online vacancy?

Vermeersch: “I didn’t know Jonas beforehand. That changed quickly. We met several times at the stadium to discuss matters.”

Vandeplassche: “Tonia is a familiar face and is also part of a supporter’s club. She has already made many moves. I’m a little less known face then. I applied through the vacancy and they chose me.”

We check what’s going on with the supporters: from lukewarm pints to hygiene in the toilets

Vermeersch: “I had already indicated that I would like to if they were to look for a new SLO. A number of people said to me, ‘This is for you, isn’t it?’

Vandeplassche: “I think a good mix has been made between a young person who knows his way digitally and someone who is known by the fans.”

Vermeersch: “It’s true, Jonas is much better digitally versed than I am. He is extremely driven. I hope to follow him in that (laughs). If he takes on the technical side, with computers and the internet, then I can see it going well. Then I can focus on being there for the supporters in the stadium itself.”

However, it will take some time. Can you combine it with your professional day job?

Vandeplassche: “I am an adviser to local authorities. Together with my colleagues, we successfully solve tasks, often minor, for local authorities. Examples of what a project can entail are, for example, a load measurement at a municipal service, a management strength analysis, an optimization exercise around processes… I can align my SLO tasks with that agenda.”

Vermeersch: “I often go to football, so I’m always there. At the moment I see no objection to combining it. At my professional job, I took some time out. I roll in. I will have to learn the SLO subject a bit more.”

Do you finally think that Zulte Waregem can ensure preservation?

Vermeersch: “Well, I live in Zulte and the moment they play a training match against Union, I can see them at work (we’ll call her on Tuesday afternoon during that practice pool, ed.). I think they will make it. There have been bad games, but the fans have yet to turn against the players or the coach. We always keep singing. It should give a boost to the eleven on the field, with the thought: look, they will stay behind us. We must maintain that positivism.”

Vandeplassche: “I notice that we support very constructively. Everyone continues to give confidence to coach Mbaye Leye and the players. It also helps that he is a club icon. You also saw that with a Vincent Kompany. Such coaches have a little more margin, which another coach does not get. But to answer your question, yes, I see it going well.” (JC)

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