Oceania Football optimistic over COVID calendar

Oceania Football remains optimistic a return to international competition is not far away.

The OFC Executive Committee approved a number of changes last week in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the OFC Champions League and a handful of youth tournaments all pushed back to a later date.

Competitions Director Chris Kemp hoped the new schedule would stick but admitted it was something out of their control.

"We're constantly monitoring the international situation about borders and quarantine and airlines flying but the really encouraging thing is that most of our member associations are able to play their [domestic] football without too many restrictions," he said.

This year's OFC Futsal Champions League and the Women's Youth Development Tournament will no longer go ahead as a result of the global pandemic.

Cancelling an event was the absolute last resort for the regional body, but Kemp stressed a lot of their decisions were also reliant on FIFA.

"If we have no other alternatives then we will have to look whether we postpone the competition, or whether we unfortunately have to make the tough decision and say that's just not possible for that one to take place," he said.

Kemp said OFC needed to have back up options and was in constant communication with FIFA about the status of the World Cup because the majority of competitions had qualification ramifications.

"So if they decide to postpone one of their competitions, for whatever reason, it then gives us more time to able to play our one."

FIFA World Cup qualifying is set to begin in March - pending approval by FIFA, as part of Oceania Football's latest calendar revamp.

A final decision on the fate of the OFC Champions League club competition will be made at the end of August, while the OFC Under 19 and Under 16 Men's Championships have been pushed back until January and April respectively.

Kemp said it was important that players throughout Oceania had the ability to prepare themselves for major events.

"The great thing is that so far most of our member associations have been able to start their own local football which means that players are getting out and playing for clubs and getting fit again to play international football," he said.

"Because obviously our competitions are the high performance end, so the key part of us being able to have our competitions is knowing that the players are playing and are fit. It would be very difficult for us to tell our teams that we want to play a competition in two months time and they're not ready and that's been a key part of the decision."

Oceania Football's 11 member associations had been supportive of the changes, Kemp said, with health and safety everybody's first priority.