Oceania leaders gather for workshop to plan climate-resilient infrastructure

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Representatives from 11 Oceania football bodies have completed a two-day workshop in Papua New Guinea to focus on football infrastructure and environment/climate change.

The workshop, held in mid-April 2024, was agreed as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between FIFA and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

The FIFA Infrastructure Workshop Oceania was an important feature of the MoU signed in April 2022 as the starting point of a roadmap that FIFA Members Associations (MAs) will create, own, and ultimately implement.

READ MORE: Oceania leaders to come together to focus on climate change strategies >>>>

The MoU saw both organisations commit to working together to enhance awareness of climate change mitigation and leverage opportunities for climate-resilient football development in the Blue Pacific region.

Climate change is the single greatest threat facing all countries in the Pacific, with multiple menaces and challenges facing the region.

According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a 1.5°C rise will submerge 4% of Earth’s terrestrial land area and adversely impact the Pacific region’s very survival.

Solomon Islands Football Federation General Secretary Leonard Paia. Photo credit: FIFA.

“Our country is an island nation in which we have about 999 islands. One of the challenges that our country faces in regard to climate change is the erosion of land, because of the level of sea rising,” said Leonard Paia, General Manager of Solomon Islands Football Federation.

“We lost a lot of our beaches, especially the ones where we used to build beach football pitches for our communities in rural areas and that has really affected our football development.”

Oceania has the highest disaster risk mainly due to its high exposure to extreme natural events and the rise in sea level. Economic losses from cyclones and flooding in the South Pacific region in 2020 were around US$1 billion.

Similarly, an annual average loss of GDP of 14.4% is experienced by Pacific Island countries due to these disasters.

FIFA Regional Lead for Oceania, David Firisua addresses the workshop. Photo credit: FIFA.

From a football sense, these challenges impact football development in both a practical and an economic way, with high costs in relation to elevation of pitches, strengthening of roofs and buildings, and water reticulation.

It is common for nations in this region to suffer from loss of facilities and interrupted league seasons due to flooding, tidal waves, rising sea levels and erosion of land.

FIFA has worked together with MAs to rectify some of these issues and, under the FIFA Forward Programme since 2016, has invested a total of USD 21 million in infrastructure development into Oceania with sustainability and accessibility components embedded into the designs.

However, barriers and high costs will continue unless strategies and regulations can be implemented into a framework which MAs can implement successfully in their own countries.

Delegates at the workshop held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Photo credit: FIFA.

It is the aim of the workshop — which was attended by General Secretaries and Facilities Managers of 11 Oceania Member Associations — to result in greater stakeholder engagement to allow MAs to leverage all available support and maximise the positive impacts on the people, their region and the environment.

Specifically, the workshop touched on facilities maintenance and highlighted the importance of safeguarding, sustainability and accessibility. As part of this, MAs have been given the tools to develop a robust maintenance strategy with a maintenance operational plan that is well-resourced and tailored to their needs.

“We ensure that all football infrastructure in Oceania adheres to the FIFA Climate Strategy as well as what is important with regard to PIF moving forward,” said Sanjeevan Balasingam, FIFA Director Member Associations Asia & Oceania.

“Without proper pitches, without proper stadiums, without proper training centres, or headquarters, you can’t really develop the game to an optimum level.”

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