Photo Credit: OFC Media

OFC delivered two refereeing workshops in Auckland in November, focusing on both fitness instructor development and women pre-elite referees.

The three-day workshops – which ran concurrently at the AUT Millennium facility in Auckland – saw 20 officials participate in a number of practical and theoretical sessions, including a presentation from FIFA Women’s World Cup referee Anna-Marie Keighley.

OFC Head of Refereeing Kevin Stoltenkamp spoke about the importance of the Fitness Instructor course and the work that has to be done to raise standards for referee fitness across the region.

“Fitness is an area that’s a real concern for us. As mentioned before, Tonga is the only Member Association in our confederation that has a full time fitness instructor.” Stoltenkamp said.

“So we decided to try and build the capacity in Member Associations by inviting one fitness instructor from all Member Associations, to give them the basics of what is required to conduct training and education for the match officials from grassroots to maybe youth and MA level”, he explained.

Providing the means to improve fitness for officials is crucial but alongside that, Stoltenkamp is keen that the level of education increases for all Member Associations.

“Going through the different requirements of a fitness instructor, the different types of programmes that need to continue, whether they are based on a one-day programme, a two-day programme or for the later three or four-day programmes, and also going through terms like periodisation, explaining to them what is required,” Stoltenkamp said.

Participants and officials at the OFC Workshops on Fitness Instructors and Pre-Elite Women Refereeing. Auckland, New Zealand. Photo Credit: OFC Media

The Pre-Elite Women’s Referee course saw 13 officials involved and there is a real drive to increase the levels of female referee participation in OFC events in the near future.

“That’s like anything, we have a pyramid, which is actually inverted, because we have nothing at the bottom, we don’t have enough female officials coming through in this region. It’s also an opportunity for them to be prepared and experience what is required to be an elite official, as most of them are still involved in football in some capacity as players. So we’re hoping that they see being a match official, that that’s another career path for them,” Stoltenkamp explained.

For Anna-Marie Keighley, who refereed at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Australia and New Zealand, this was a welcome opportunity to impart her knowledge and experience onto the next generation of elite women referees in the Pacific.

“Yeah, well that’s a great honour to be here amongst this pre-elite group, to just to share experiences that I’ve gone through, to give them a light that there is potential to aspire to being on the world stage, that there is a pathway there.” She said.

“I think now in Oceania, there are more competitions, so there’s more opportunity to be involved in football. There are more situations like this one, more courses to be involved in – we had just the general OFC elite seminar earlier this year,” Keighley added.

In July and August of this year Keighley officiated at her third FIFA Women’s World Cup™, taking charge of two group stage matches – Argentina v South Africa and South Korea v Germany – and is excited about the positive impact that the tournament being held in this region can have for the development of women referees in the Pacific.

“I really hope that we’ve been able to inspire girls and women in the Pacific, and yeah, let’s hope to see more women getting involved in refereeing.”