The idea of a confederation for the Pacific was first raised in 1964 when the football world was in Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Three gentlemen discussed the idea and they put in motion the formation of what was to become the OFC. Their names were Sir Stanley Rous, then president of FIFA, Jim Bayutti from the Australian Soccer Federation and Sid Guppy, chairman of the New Zealand Football Association.
The discussion came about after a decision by the Asian Football Confederation, which had only been formed ten years previously, not to accept either Australia or New Zealand for membership. It was this that laid the groundwork and gave the impetus for those crucial discussions in Tokyo.
OFC’s first-ever congress was held in 1968 and the delegates – responding to the proposal by both Australia and New Zealand – agreed that Sir William Walkley and Ian McAndrew be appointed chairman and secretary/treasurer respectively. Both were from Australia. Sir William’s fine opening remarks at the 1968 congress called on “all nations (to) work together for the development of football in the South Pacific”.
Charles J. Dempsey, CBE, 1921-2008
Charles “Charlie” Dempsey is considered the ‘Father of OFC’ having played a key role in establishing the Confederation and continuing on in various leadership roles. After the initial discussions in Tokyo, Dempsey was approached by the NZFA to work with Jim Bayutti to put together the necessary founding documents and garner support across the world in the hope they would receive a favourable reception at the next FIFA Congress two years later.
And so it was in 1966, that FIFA formally approved the proposal and the Oceania Football Confederation was officially born. The founding members included Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. New Caledonia were also very involved in the process but could only be provisional members since the territory did not have sports autonomy from France at the time.
Football in the Pacific received a huge boost when OFC unveiled a million-dollar plan to groom football stars for the future in a purpose-built facility at one of New Zealand’s most famous rugby venues. The Charles J. Dempsey Football Academy was built at Mount Smart Stadium at a cost of NZD 1.2 million. The purpose-built facility, completed in 1999, provides coaching, refereeing and administrative facilities for all 11 OFC Member Associations.
It has since accommodated a variety of teams from across the region, particularly age-group players as OFC focuses on improving football standards from the youth level. Former OFC President Charles Dempsey once said, “the future of football lies with the youth of today and it is they who need our help, to bring the people into the game and to ensure that they get the very best coaching standards our region can provide.”
With the backing of the world body, OFC has moved swiftly on many levels and will continue to do so in the future. All member associations have fully-functional and staffed offices and are working tirelessly to develop football in their respective regions. OFC has relaunched competitions such as the OFC Nations Cup and OFC Champions League to mirror other regional championships and has embraced the new world of sponsorship and television.
In the years ahead OFC will continue in its efforts to improve football standards across Oceania both on and off the field. Like all development work, most of what OFC does, does not grab headlines but without the Confederation’s work the players and fans in the member countries would not have the framework within which to practice their skills and enjoy their football.