OFC competitions calendar rescheduled

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International travel within OFC’s Member Associations continues to pose significant risks to the health and welfare of the Pacific community.

Taking this into consideration, the OFC Executive Committee has agreed to a range of changes to the football calendar, including the cancellation of this year’s OFC Champions League.

It will mark the second consecutive year that no winner of the Champions League will be crowned after last year’s competition had to be abandoned following the group stages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of options were explored for this year’s tournament but given the border closures throughout the Pacific it became impossible to operate the event.

A decision will be made no later than July 31 regarding which club will be nominated to represent Oceania at this year’s FIFA Club World Cup.

OFC General Secretary Franck Castillo said while it was disappointing to cancel more competitions, many Member Associations in the Pacific had made significant strides in the domestic game in the past year.

“While COVID-19 has presented many challenges, we have been thrilled to see the new women’s leagues in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, while New Zealand’s refreshed National League structure represents a great investment in the long-term sustainability of the game,” Castillo said.

“We remain committed to running our competitions when we can safely and look forward to the return of international football in our region.”

In other changes, the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship that was due to be held in July has been rescheduled for next April, while the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship that was slated for September will be moved to June 2022.

These OFC events will serve as the respective qualifying tournaments for next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

This year’s OFC Futsal Champions League that was due to be played in December has been cancelled.

The OFC Youth Development and OFC U-15 Boys Centre of Excellence tournaments have been postponed until later in the year with an eye to play them if smaller regional bubbles open up in the Pacific.

“This is a crucial age for development in young footballers and we want to explore every possible option to give these players a chance to compete,” Castillo said.

The Qualifying Stage for the OFC Champions League 2022 that was scheduled for October has been pushed into next year.

The Executive Committee also agreed on a range of proposals that will impact the 2022 football calendar.

The OFC Champions League will be moved from its traditional slot at the beginning of the year to August; a revised format for the event will be presented at the next Executive Committee meeting.

In other 2022 amendments, the OFC U-19 Championship for men will be moved to August from July, the OFC Futsal Champions League will be brought forward from December to October, and the Qualifying Stage for the OFC Champions League 2023 will be moved from December to 2023.

A handful of events for 2022 have been cancelled, including the OFC Youth Champions League and the OFC Futsal Youth Development tournament due to congestion in the football calendar.

The previously rescheduled OFC Girls Centre of Excellence tournament and the OFC Youth Women’s Development tournament have been cancelled as those players will now be eligible for the OFC U-16 and U-19 Women’s Championship events taking place in 2022.

Expressions of interest will be sought in the coming weeks for a host for next year’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup that is scheduled to be played in July.

OFC will continue to explore its options around how the qualifying process for next year’s men’s FIFA World Cup will look.

SOURCE: OFC/PACNEWS