Fourteen OFC officials took the opportunity to upskill in Sydney on the 25-26th of November. Football Federation Australia facilitated a VAR course for them, designed to show how the video assistant referee system works. The course was run by Mathew Cheeseman, Edward Lennie and Renae Coghill of the FFA.

A video assistant referee is a match official, with independent access to match footage, who may assist the referee only in the event of a ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’ in relation to goals, penalties, direct red card offences and clarifying identity of booked players.

The OFC officials that attended the course were: Veer Singh (FIJ), Avinesh Narayan (FIJ), Mederic Lacour (NC), Isaac Trevis (NZ), Anna-Marie Keighley (NZ), Noah Kusunan (PNG), Campbell Kirk Kawana Waugh (NZ), Stephanie Minan (PNG), David Yareboinen (PNG), Maria Salamasina (SAM), Ben Aukwai (SOL), Natalia Lumukana (SOL), Shama Mae (SOL) and Folio Moeaki (TGA).

OFC Head of Refereeing Kevin Stoltenkamp attended the course, and said that:

“Our commitment to providing our officials with every opportunity to perform on the world stage is highlighted by working in collaboration with Football Federation Australia on the VAR accreditation of our officials. This is a step in the right direction, with the announcement that a OFC Professional League is set for launch in 2025. OFC match Officials have always been professional in an amateur football environment in our region, which is required for them to get appointed to international competitions.”

For referee Anna-Marie Keighley, the opportunity was one that brought much value.

“There were three stations in operation all day going through clip after clip from previous matches. With seven referees and seven assistant referees [in attendance] you were in the hot seat pretty frequently. We then focused on offside and using crosshairs technology, then participated in full match simulations.

“Being able to have practical training in the Football Australia VAR Centre, with three FFA instructors, was invaluable. It was a great first step for OFC video match officials, which was made possible by the relationship between Kevin Stoltenkamp and the FFA Refereeing Department. This relationship has led to an opportunity that the match officials are all grateful for.”

The A-League became the first topflight professional club competition to use a VAR system, in 2017. One year later, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) wrote VAR into the Laws of the Game on a permanent basis, and it has been adopted into all major competitions, most notably at the last two FIFA World Cups.

Currently OFC is the only confederation that does not use VAR for our international competitions, so the opportunity to learn it first-hand from A-League officials was an invaluable experience.

A special thanks to Football Federation Australia for hosting our OFC referees, we look forward to future collaboration.