By Charles Dempsey, CBE
The idea of a confederation for the Pacific was first raised in 1964 when the soccer 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, the chairman of the New Zealand Football Association.
The impetus for the discussion was the decision by the Asian Football Confederation, who 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.
Although I was not present for the meeting, I was lucky that it was me the NZFA approached to work with Jim Bayutti to put together what was necessary to form the confederation.
Together we worked on the statutes and setting our goals and from this started to canvass support across the world, so that we might get a favourable reception at the next FIFA Congress due two years later.
And so it was in 1966, that FIFA formally approved our proposal and the Oceania Football Confederation was officially born. We had been recognised as a confederation but we were still voiceless - not having representation on either the FIFA executive committee or any of the other committees. But the point was Oceania was born!
The founding members of the OFC were Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. (New Caledonia were involved and were very supportive but at this date they are provisional members not having sports autonomy from France.) The OFC's first-ever congress was held two years later 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". His words were true then and remain true today.
Football in the Pacific received a huge boost when the Oceania Football Confederation unveiled a million-dollar plan to groom soccer 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 complex, completed in 1999, provides intensive coaching, refereeing and administrative facilities for all 11 countries that make up the OFC, with a particular focus on building up standards of youth soccer in the region.
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," said OFC president Charles Dempsey.
As well as a two-story building capable of hosting up to 26 players, the development calls for one of the Mount Smart fields to be upgraded to international standard with floodlighting for use by the OFC. In addition, under the deal brokered with the Auckland Regional Council, the OFC can use the gym facilities at the Warriors headquarters, and in return other New Zealand sports bodies can access the academy four months each year.
The OFC will bring in experts from around the world to teach players and officials. As such the academy will play an integral part in developing the game of soccer throughout the island countries," said Dempsey.
The funding for the project came from a soft-loan given by world governing body FIFA, against the expected USD 10 million the OFC will receive up to 2002 under the terms of a new billion-dollar World Cup TV deal. The interest-free loan needs to be repaid by 2006. Dempsey said he hoped the success of the project, which would be most keenly felt in the island countries, should help redraw the map of Oceania football.
Although Australia is the current number one in this region, it will only be a matter of time I am sure before the impact of the academy ensures that other island countries can compete favourably against Australia and New Zealand," said the OFC president. Dempsey said he was particularly grateful for the cross-code support in favour of the academy, the first of its kind in Auckland, with rugby union and league as well as athletics, netball and cycling officials all keen to use the facility.
In the world of football we can expect many changes. Some of these will grab the headlines, like the election of the FIFA president who will take the game in to the 21st century, and some of these will not. At the Oceania Football Confederation we have been working to develop the game in the region since 1966.
Like all development work, most of what we do does not grab headlines but without the OFC'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.
For us 1996 was perhaps our most crucial year. For it was then that FIFA confirmed the OFC as world football's sixth confederation, putting an end to a poorly defined role which no doubt impacted the region's football development.
With the backing of the world body, the OFC have moved swiftly on many levels - the region has a new logo, magazine and media guide. All members now have fully-functional and staffed offices. The Oceania Nations Cup has been relaunched and formatted to mirror the other regional championships and the OFC has embraced the new world of sponsorship and television. The OFC's football academy has been opened for business.
These are just some of the key developments which underpin the very bright future Oceania football has. We look forward to your support and promise to honour your commitment.
Some of the milestones in the last thirty years worth noting include the following:
The OFC president and secretary resign. Jack Cowie and Charles Dempsey (both NZ) are made acting president and secretary respectively. SM Singh (Fiji) is appointed treasurer.
Australia, resigns as an OFC member to pursue membership with the Asian Football Confederation. Although there was considerable discussion about whether the OFC could continue without Australia, Sir Stanley advises OFC "football is for everyone and for all countries regardless of their size, population or economic wealth" and advises the OFC to continue to press for full confederation status. At that year's congress, held in New Caledonia, Cowie and Dempsey are confirmed in their positions.
Having resigned from the AFC, Chinese Taipei joins the OFC as a provisional member.
Chinese Taipei confirmed by FIFA as a member of the OFC.
Australia rejoins the OFC.
At the OFC congress in Papua New Guinea, Australia's Sir Arthur George is elected president and Dempsey continues as secretary.
Four years later and the congress is again held in Papua New Guinea. Dempsey is elected president and Australia's Keith Young becomes general secretary.
Young resigns as secretary and Josephine King from New Zealand is elected to the position.
Chinese Taipei are readmitted to the Asian Football Confederation after a 14-year membership of the OFC.
The OFC's status is upgraded by FIFA to that of a 'geographical entity' in preparation for a 6-year trial period to determine whether the body merits confirmation as full confederation. After a 20-year run in office (an OFC record!), SM Singh resigns as treasurer of the OFC and is replaced by countryman JD Maharaj.
The trial period ends and FIFA, confident in the viability of the OFC, puts forward a motion to that end to the FIFA congress in Zurich. One hundred and seventy countries vote for the confederation status, with only one country against. The OFC is confirmed as a full confederation with a seat on the FIFA executive.
1998 and onwards
Ground-breaking of the new OFC headquarters which should be finished and opened on 12 December 1998.
All OFC members will be computerised, with E-mail addresses and with at least one full time employee working for their national association.
A special taskforce is named and gathers to discuss meeting the special needs of the island countries, which then made up eight of the 10 members.
Amidst many other new changes, including a new media guide, a new logo for the confederation as well as a magazine entitled The Wave are launched.
The OFC signs a marketing partnership with the Oceania Sport Group, sister company to AFC Marketing Ltd. which was responsible for developing the Asian Football Confederation's marketing programme to high acclaim in Asia.
2000 and onwards
Each member country should have an academy working closely with the OFC's academy in Auckland to ensure that programmes are in place for young players, age group competitions as well as regular training for referees, coaches, administrators and sports medicine
Each country should have an experienced technical director. On the playing fields, soccer will have been developed to tap into the potential of all the elite players as well as offering good, competitive football for some of the less talented.
1968 - 1970 Sir William Walkley, CBE - Australia
A former President of the Australian Soccer Federation, Sir William Walkley, CBE, became inaugural OFC President in 1968
1972 - 1972 Vic Tuting, MBE - Australia
Vic Tuting was a former Vice President of the Australian Soccer Federation. Tuting's achievements have been recognised in the Football Federation Australia's Hall of Fame.
1972 - 1978 Jack Cowie, OBE - New Zealand
Cowie was a former New Zealand test cricketer from 1937-1949 and former chariman of the NZFA
1978 - 1982 Sir Arthur George, AO - Australia
President of the Australian Soccer Federation from 1969-1988, Sir Arthur George was a FIFA executive from 1980-1994. Sir Arthur recieved the FIFA Order of Merit in 1994.
1982-2000 Charles J. Dempsey, CBE - New Zealand
Dempsey was integral in the formation of the Oceania Football Confederation in 1964 and was elected as Oceania Football Confederation President in 1982 and is former chairmen of the NZFA. Elected to FIFA executive in 1996 and named Oceania Football Confederation Honorary President in 2001. Dempsey recieved the FIFA Order of Merit in 2004.
2004- Present Reynald Temarii - Tahiti
Temarii becams the first Oceania Football Confederation President to be elected from the island nations at the 18th Congress in Auckland, New Zealand. Temarii is a former Tahitian Minister of Youth and Sport and ex-professional footballer with Nantes.
2000 -2001 Johnny Tinsley Lulu - Vanuatu
2003 - 2004 Tautulu Roebuck - Samoa
Pacific Gold Star:
1999 Dr Joao Havelange
2001 Charles J. Dempsey, CBE