Oceania Football Confederation

The Oceania Football Confederation is the smallest of the world’s six Confederations, and responsible for the development and organisation of football across the South Pacific.

OFC is currently made up of 11 Member Associations and three Associate Members, which it supports through a variety of means including financially and pedagogically.

As well as organising regional qualifiers for all FIFA World Cup tournaments, the General Secretariat provides educational expertise to help guide the development of football across all levels from grassroots to elite, while also catering for a range of different roles from coaches and referees to sports administrators.

The Beginning

The Oceania Football Confederation was first mooted in 1964 when three gentlemen discussed and put in motion the formation of what would go on to become OFC.

Those men were Sir Stanley Rous, then president of FIFA, Jim Bayutti of the Australian Soccer Federation, and Sid Guppy, chairman of the New Zealand Football Association.

The idea was raised following a decision by the Asian Football Confederation, which had been formed 10 years earlier, not to accept the membership requests of either Australia or New Zealand.

Following those initial discussions which took place in Japan around the Tokyo Olympics, Charles “Charlie” Dempsey, was approached by the NZFA to work with Jim Bayutti to put together the required documentation to begin the process of bringing OFC from an idea on paper, to reality.

Dempsey was also tasked with garnering global support for the proposal which would be presented at the FIFA Congress two years later.

Following a lot of hard work and lobbying, FIFA formally approved the proposal and the Oceania Football Confederation was officially born in 1966.

The founding members of OFC included Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. New Caledonia was very involved in the process but at the time could only be a provisional member as it did not have sports autonomy from France.

In 1968, four years after those initial discussions in Tokyo, the first ever OFC Congress was held. The delegates, responding to the proposal by both Australia and New Zealand, agreed that Australians Sir William Walkley and Ian McAndrew would be appointed chairman and secretary/treasurer respectively.

In his opening remarks on that day Sir William Walkley called on “all nations (to) work together for the development of football in the South Pacific”.

The journey

Since its establishment OFC has worked hard at providing opportunities in football across the region. Each of its 11 Member Associations have a functioning headquarters, many also have academy facilities to enable youth development.

There is a full complement of regional tournaments from U-16 through to senior in both the men’s and women’s categories, a bi-annual youth futsal tournament and world cup qualifiers for futsal and beach soccer. More recently, OFC has been working with UEFA through the UEFA Assist programme to offer Youth Development Tournaments for the U-18 categories.

While assisting with infrastructure and providing a competitive international platform plays a large role in what OFC does, education is also a crucial part of its operation.

In 2017 the OFC Education Centre was launched to consolidate all the courses OFC offers across coaching, refereeing, social development, media, and administration in one place. While not a physical building, the Education Centre is set up and run in each Member Association offering the local community an opportunity to engage in a journey of learning which will benefit both individuals and the wider community.

2020 and beyond

Having earned direct entry to the U-17 and U-20 Men’s FIFA World Cups from 2017, and with the promise of one direct entry and a half-spot to the 2026 FIFA World Cup™ for Oceania, development remains the highest priority across the region.

The implementation of the Education Centre and the introduction of the Youth Development Tournament play a part in the focus on development, but they’re not alone.

The Football Development Strategy was introduced in 2019 and encompasses all aspects of football and also takes in all forms of the game including futsal and beach soccer.

A large focus of the strategy is assisting all Member Associations to achieve their potential and ensure OFC has two nations competing at the World Cup in 2026.

Sir John Guise Stadium in Papua New Guinea during the 2016 OFC Nations Cup. Image: OFC via Phototek