Updated: Nov 13, 2021
Being a football fan at times can be a challenging prospect. There are seasons where you think the club has missed out on big signings in the transfer window, let go of the wrong players and performances throughout the campaign may not be at the level you want. But, there are also supporters who feel they are not being listened to by their clubs off the field, or there isn't that vital point of contact when we desperately need help and assistance. Luckily, for Millwall Football Club, the person who is appointed as our Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) already knows the football club inside out, is a passionate and loyal supporter of the club and continuously goes above and beyond to help ALL fans with any issue they have. If you've got a problem involving Millwall and look for advise on social media, one of the first replies will be to contact the person we are talking to today, and no doubt the wheel will be in motion to get your issues resolved. For this interview, we sit down with Millwall's SLO, Shona Groves.
1. How busy has it been with the returning of fans?
It has been busy but it’s been a good busy if that makes sense? It hasn’t been the same without fans at The Den so to see the supporters back in the stands again is fantastic.
It’s been a big task organising the return of fans for everyone involved at the club, for me personally it has been great to communicate and talk with the fanbase face to face again, as we want to make their return to The Den as easy as possible!
2. Are you a Millwall fan and if so, are all of your family Millwall fans? If not, how were you attracted to the club?
I am a Millwall fan. Both my Mum and Grandad who have both now sadly passed away were big Millwall supporters and took me to my first game when I was 5/6 years old. Even when my Mum was coming towards the end of her life she would always ask the scores, who scored, how we played etc. My uncles and cousin also still attend very often sitting in the Cold Blow Lane. We are a big Millwall family and hopefully this will continue to be extended down the line in years to come!
3. The 2020/21 season saw the games played behind closed doors and a few games had trials with fans in attendance. Just how challenging a time for you was this, as your role is to help the fans, but there weren’t any you could liaise with on a face-to-face level?
It was a strange time and one no-one expected it at all, and don’t think anyone quite realised how long it would go on for! You certainly miss that fan interaction and being able to help people in person, but in turn, I met some fantastic characters, virtually, throughout lockdown. One thing which was important for me was to continue to communicate well with supporters, and make sure they had answers to their queries as quickly as possible. I think the iFollow codes was one of the most challenging things for me during this period as I didn’t want anyone to miss a game online!
4. You’ve been working at Millwall now in a number of roles, how did it all begin for you and where has your career behind the scenes taken you?
It all started for me when I applied for a job as Ticket Office Assistant/Disabled Liaison Officer back in 2017, then became the Assistant to Head of Ticketing in 2018 – and more recently the Supporter Liaison Officer in 2020. I have definitely grown as a person throughout the nearly 5 years I have worked here. I would like to think I have a good relationship with the fanbase which is very important to me – we do become like one big extended family to each other!
5. Although we can imagine how tough it can be sometimes for you, you must have times where you really enjoy your job. What does helping the fans mean to you?
Yes, it can be tough at times because you feel a great responsibility to help as many people as you possibly can – the queries I deal with have been from helping people on a day-to-day basis regarding match tickets for example to helping supporters fulfil a dying wish. Obviously how you handle the two are completely different. Knowing you can help someone with their final wish is a big responsibility but also extremely rewarding knowing you can help one final time. Overall, I’ve been very fortunate with the Millwall fan base – they’ve been very understanding of the unique problems that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 and have worked patiently alongside me when we’ve been solving any queries. What’s great with this role is that you meet so many amazing fans and people you would never come across outside of this role!
6. What is the day-to-day role like, and how busy are you during and after a Millwall game?
The day-to-day is never the same which I really enjoy! Before a matchday is busy, trying to make sure everything has been done for the game, answering emails, twitter etc. I also look after the Zampa twitter account, the Junior Lions and Family Stand - I am really excited as we will be having a makeover in the Family Stand during the international break something we have worked hard on trying to get right and improve the matchday experience for the Juniors.
During the game I try and engage with as many supporters as possible prematch outside in the car park, in the SE16 area etc, visiting the disabled area, the family stand just speaking to supporters to see if I can help them in anyway – I am always floating around somewhere!
7. Tell us about the most rewarding thing you have done during your time at Millwall?
Honestly, there has been many rewarding things that I have been involved in at the club along with other colleagues. I would say for me my top 3 would be, being involved with Charlie Harris and the cancer deadline campaign, Charlie sadly passed away recently but will always be remembered by everyone at the club for being an amazing man and his very kind donation. Next would be, being able to organise a VIP experience for Thomas Turner who had written in a letter to the club to say he could sadly not attend anymore so we gave him a last matchday in style – it was a pleasure to meet Thomas and he was so humbled by the whole occasion. Max McLellan put together a brilliant video of the day which admittedly did have me in tears! Lastly would be setting up the coffee mornings for supporters on a Wednesday morning, we set this up as we were coming out of the lockdown to banish the lockdown blues and engage supporters again. The coffee mornings run every Wednesday from 09:30am-12:30pm and all are welcome!
8. What are your plans for the Supporter Liaison Officer role, where would you like to see it grow to in the future?
As mentioned above, I think its important we do as much as we can for Junior Supporters as they are the future for the club, putting on more Junior Tours alongside Ciaran O’Connell and Sean Daly. Improving the matchday experience, hopefully soon we will be in a position to start our Junior Lion Partner visits soon, reopen the fun zone etc.
Myself and Michael from the MSC are also working on improving the Disabled Wheelchair area, engaging with supporters and working alongside them to improve the matchday experience for them and being inclusive for all. We will be relaunching the food delivery service along the wheelchair area and from the Reading game on Tuesday night will be providing free blankets to help our wheelchair users keep warm.
I think working closer and alongside Sean Daly and the Millwall Community Trust will also see the SLO role grow, we recently launched the free sanitary products for women when they attend games are also working on a Christmas charity campaign – which we will be launching soon!
My emails are always open for anyone who would like to get in touch – email@example.com