Oceania Football Confederation : Scoring for Sustainability

Lily Sawyer
Lily Sawyer - Editor
Close-up of legs playing soccer in a wet stadium

With a goal to devise and implement climate-resilient infrastructure across the Pacific region, member associations of the Oceania Football Confederation will gather later this month to draw attention to climate change and initiate action against it.


Due to its low-lying topography and the relatively isolated nature of its islands, the Pacific region has been historically vulnerable to climate change, especially in the face of natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and rising sea levels.  

The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) recognises that, as a sport, football is not immune to climate change, whilst the unique position that the federation enjoys within the echelons of the international football community may help draw attention to the problem and initiate action against it.  

As such, 10 OFC member associations, including New Zealand, Papua New Guinea (PNG), and Fiji, amongst others, will gather this April at the PNG Football Association headquarters in Port Moresby to undertake a two-day climate action workshop.  

Run by the sport’s international governing body, FIFA, the workshop will aim to strategise the maintenance of football facilities in the region, with a central focus on the development of climate-resilient football grounds and infrastructure.  

In association with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), which aims to enhance cooperation amongst the countries and territories of Oceania, FIFA and OFC hope that, as a universally recognised symbol of togetherness and camaraderie, football can act as a unifying vessel through which the message of climate action can be spread. 


As an organisation, FIFA has historically been heavily involved in promoting climate awareness and mitigation. For instance, it was responsible for launching a Climate Strategy in November 2021 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), hosted in Scotland.  

The following year, FIFA and PIF signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that focused on education, climate change, and fostering disaster resilience across the forum’s 18 member countries. This included developing advocacy strategies and boosting community initiatives.  

In addition, the FIFA Forward programme, a sports development initiative aimed at supporting global football development across a range of socioeconomic circumstances, has since funded designated football infrastructure designed for disaster resilience. So far, through FIFA Forward, the association has invested a total of USD$21 million in climate-resilient football infrastructure development in the Pacific region. 

In many cases, the programme’s resulting facilities have proved life-changing. For example, the Tonga Football Association’s headquarters was used by residents as shelter during the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano, as it was one of the only safe buildings on the island. The headquarters also provided protection for local people caught in a tsunami later that year. 

Similarly, the Fiji Football Association’s Labasa facility provided refuge during a major cyclone on the island in 2021. 

In a region where the world’s first climate refugees have emerged in recent years, the need for infrastructure and global action has become even more pressing. For example, around 1,700 people native to PNG’s low-lying Carteret Islands were recently forced to relocate to Bougainville due to rising sea levels.


PIF and FIFA believe football to be an invaluable vehicle through which climate change can be discussed in an open, accessible way. The sport itself, however, has not escaped global environmental challenges.  

An increase in adverse weather conditions in the Pacific region, such as rising temperatures, has led to noticeable changes in the game.  

The implementation of cooling breaks has become common practice, allowing players to rehydrate during games.  

The cost of providing water for players has also increased significantly in recent years, as has the frequency of cancelled matches due to excess rain and flooding.  

As football expands across more countries within the Pacific region, such as PNG, whose climate refugees can be seen as a poignant indicator of what’s to come, adverse weather changes continue to impact not only how football is played, but the entire landscape of each country.  

Thus, OFC recognises that each of its member countries are, in some way, experiencing the adverse effects of climate change, which can be detrimental to their economies and environments.  

As such, it is hoped that, through football, PIF can spread a wider message of climate action, promote mitigating measures across OFC member associations, sponsor climate-resilient infrastructure, and more widely utilise the sport and its associated publicity to enable global change.


OFC represents all footballing associations across Oceania and is responsible for promoting the game within the continent. It also enables its member nations to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.  

As the smallest of the six global FIFA confederations, OFC is made up of just 13 associations, 11 of which are full-time members. The remaining two nations, Kiribati and Tuvalu, are not officially affiliated with FIFA, meaning they are ineligible to qualify to play in the FIFA World Cup.  

OFC encompasses a broad geographical scope, largely made up of island nations and territories.  

New Zealand, PNG, and Fiji have been part of the confederation since its inception in the 1960s; today, Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, and the North Mariana Islands also fall under the OFC umbrella.  

Australia, once the largest member nation both in terms of land mass and footballing success, left OFC in 2006 to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). 

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