The structure of the organised game in Germany resembles a pyramid. At the top is the national team. It is carried by more than 6.8 million members, male and female players of all ages in 165,000 teams at 25,500 clubs and a host of volunteers – the core of the German Football Association (DFB).
To reflect this diversity, the DFB has produced a comprehensive 250-page guide, DFB From A to Z, which looks at key football topics such as the various national teams, elite player development, coach education and the game’s social and societal impact.
Under F you will find Fan Dialogue. Aligning the interests of supporters with the goals of the DFB and engaging in and promoting a constructive dialogue is the responsibility of the supporter liaison officer (SLO), the official point of contact for fans at the DFB.
The DFB has employed a full-time SLO since September 2006. The person it entrusted with this challenging and wide-reaching post is Gerald von Gorrissen, himself a former SLO. Von Gorrissen, who until then had served as the SLO at Preussen Münster and spokesman of all the SLOs in the Regional League North, is responsible for bundling supporter issues and representing them within the DFB. The aim of his work is to help to break down differences and existing preconceptions. For the DFB, the supporter contact point is not there to handle complaints, it is a communications platform between itself and the fans.
The work of the supporter contact point at national team level is of particular importance. The DFB SLO looks after fans at international matches and all major tournaments, maintaining a presence among the fans to allow him to assess any potential conflict situations correctly and intervene in a de escalatory way, if necessary.
Fan work as crisis management – though prevention also has high priority, of course. This is also why Gerald works very closely with other DFB departments, such as security and ticketing.
The DFB SLO is also the contact person for his fellow SLOs in the third division, for the clubs in all fan-related matters, and for the regional and national associations. In addition to advising clubs, he also shares his expertise at training courses and seminars.
Gerald works closely with the German Football League (DFL) and is the contact person for supporter groups, fan projects and the DFB Prevention, Security and Football Culture Committee, where he represents the DFB central administration.
In everything the DFB does, be it its work in public or behind the scenes, on supporter message boards, at games, or in meetings with fans and their representatives, taking supporter issues seriously is the overriding principle. In 2007, this led to the staging of the inaugural Fan Congress in Leipzig, which was attended by a total of 420 fans from 50 clubs. The dialogue with supporters did not end there, of course. It continued in the Fan Dialogue Working Group (now renamed the Fan Issues/Fan Work Working Group). Members of this official DFB working group include supporter representatives, professional fan workers and, of course, the supporter liaison officer of the German Football Association.