FIBA Oceania History
In 1991 long serving OBC Secretary General, Mr Al Ramsay, compiled a book to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the sport of Basketball, and 25 years of the Oceania Basketball Confederation, now known as FIBA Oceania.
Both FIBA and FIBA Oceania are indebted to Mr Ramsay for this publication, which provides a detailed view of basketball in the formative years. The following history of the zone is taken in part from that book. Copies of that book can be purchased from the FIBA Oceania office.
Before Oceania Basketball Confederation:
During 1964 FIBA forecast that qualification for all major FIBA events would be conducted through the zones. At that time all of the world, except the Pacific, were established in FIBA zones. This ruling caused great anxiety in Australia and New Zealand who were particularly interested in such competition.
Enquiries were made about Australia and New Zealand joining the Asian zone, but it became obvious that the Asian Basketball Confederation were totally disinclined to include Australia and New Zealand. Both Australia and New Zealand had competed in Asia and Australia in particular had established themselves as superior to most Asian teams. Thus to include these countries would result in truly Asian teams being deprived the opportunity to represent their Zone at the International level.
The Secretary of Australian Basketball at that time, Mr Alistair Ramsay, entered into discussions with FIBA Secretary General R William Jones about a solution to the problem.
On 3rd October 1967 Mr Ramsay convened a meeting of Pacific Island counties at the Nookinburra Hotel in Perth, Western Australia. Delegates from Australia and New Zealand with proxy delegated from Papua New Guinea and Fiji attended. At this meeting approval was given to call for nominations and form an interim committee to handle matters relating to the drafting of a Constitution and to take the necessary steps to form an Oceania Basketball Confederation.
In June 1968 a meeting was convened in Sydney, Australia with representatives from various countries. The proposed Constitution and By-Laws were approved, and Lance Cross of New Zealand was appointed President with Al Ramsay of Australia confirmed as Secretary General.
Oceania Basketball Confederation gains FIBA Approval:
Later in 1968 at the FIBA Congress in Mexico City Mr Ramsay proposed and Mr Cross seconded that the Oceania Basketball Confederation be accepted as a member of FIBA. The motion was carried unanimously following favourable comments from a number of delegates including the Secretary General of FIBA, Dr R William Jones.
Thus the Oceania Basketball Confederation came into being with the full rights and privileges of other Zones, including representation on FIBA Commissions and qualification in all FIBA competitions.
This most significant occasion also carried major responsibilities. Secretary General Ramsay realised that the Oceania zone had to prove to the world that it was a truly operational zone, not merely an entry in the FIBA Regulations. The stage was set. The Oceania Basketball Confederation existed officially. It was now time to amalgamate all countries into a functioning zone.
Following the acceptance of the Oceania Basketball Confederation by FIBA , the first official meeting of the OBC was held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on 16th August 1969, during the South Pacific Games. This meeting was attended by delegates from Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji, Guam, the British Solomon Islands and Nauru.
Between this meeting in 1969 and the first Oceania Tournament in 1981, the Oceania Basketball Confederation Executive set in place many endeavours aimed at the development of basketball across the zone.
Undoubtedly lack of finances and poor communication between the countries of the zone were the major stumbling blocks in the early days.
It was agreed in 1974 that the Oceania Zone be represented at all world meetings of FIBA and that Oceania teams should participate in all FIBA International events and that a definite plan for selection of such teams be developed.
It was also agreed that a number of steps be taken to advance the sport in the island nations of the zone. These plans included the production of coaching and refereeing booklets, the improved distribution of the Oceania Bulletin, initiating a program of team visits to the more isolated areas of Oceania, the production and distribution of Mini Basketball books; and that a coach/referee with a sound knowledge of Oceania administration make a four week tour of selected Oceania countries.
Securing the funding for these trips proved to be a time consuming and difficult task. Secretary General Ramsay was forever on the look out for avenues to assist with this development program. Funding for these courses had come irregularly from FIBA, the Rothmans Sports Foundation, Adidas, and the Australian Government.
However, at the Congress in 1981 the Executive Committee reported that excellent progress had been made in assisting Oceania countries in administration, refereeing and coaching development. The major experts in these early days were Sid Taylor and Merv Emms of Australia. Mr Taylor was the authority on the Rules and attended many South Pacific Games and various countries conducting clinics in the Rules and Officiating Techniques. Mr Emms was at the forefront in visiting countries and conducting courses in all aspects of the sport. As soon as funds permitted Mr Emms visited Oceania countries year after year. His local knowledge of problems, needs and cultures were invaluable to the organisation in furthering the development of basketball.
Other early contributors to the overall Oceania program were Steve and Judy Smith who were financed by the Australian Government on a most extensive tour of some of the more isolated countries. They spent several months organising facilities and teaching the sport to all those interested. During this time they were frequently living and working in most primitive conditions.
The Oceania Basketball Confederation Tournament Commences:
The first Oceania Tournament was conducted in Suva, Fiji in 1981. 8 men's teams and 4 women's teams representing the countries of Australia, Guam, American Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Northern Marianas, New Caledonia and Vanuatu contested the inaugural event. It was agreed at meetings held during this tournament, that the OBC Tournament should be held every 4 years, and that the Congress of the OBC should be held at the same time.
In 1985 the 2nd Oceania Tournament was conducted in Suva, Fiji. It was a great pleasure to welcome the Secretary General of FIBA, Mr Boris Stankovic, to the South Pacific. Mr Stankovic addressed the Congress and announced that FIBA had agreed to a regular annual allocation of funds from FIBA to all Zones including Oceania in order to assist in the sport throughout the area. A yearly allowance to Oceania Basketball of $25,000US was commenced. It was explained that Oceania could now plan ahead and develop courses which it was hoped would encompass all parts of the Pacific.
During that same period, finance also became available from the International Olympic Committee Solidarity Fund for development purposes, and the sport commenced to flourish in every country in the Pacific.
The first major regionalised course was conducted in Suva, Fiji in April 1985 and an Oceania Referees Certificate was initiated as a stage between a FIBA Award and Federation Referee status. Those so qualified became entitled to officiate in inter-island competition. This Referees Program was conducted by Sid Taylor and Terry Doherty of Australia and Robin Milligan of New Zealand.
At the 1985 Congress it was decided to institute an award of Member of Honour for people who had contributed greatly to the progress of the sport in the Pacific. Mrs Carrie Gaveau of New Caledonia and Mrs Sameme U. Samia of American Samoa were elected as the first recipients of the award.
The 5th Congress was held in Noumea, New Caledonia in 1987. At that meeting Secretary General Ramsay reported that the membership of OBC had reached 21 countries, and that during the year 16 countries had experienced Development courses - a record on both accounts.
The 6th Congress in Tahiti in 1989 was the lengthiest ever held. Every aspect of Oceania came in for detailed discussion. The spirited arguments which ensured showed that everyone was highly involved in the future of the Zone. At this meeting the new Constitution of the Confederation was adopted, resulting in the Oceania Basketball Confederation becoming an Incorporated body.
Mr Merv Emms, the Australian expert who had spent more than 25 years promoting, coaching and advising on basketball throughout the entire Pacific Zone was made OBC's third Member of Honour. Sir Lance Cross, who had been President of the Confederation since its inception, passed away during the year and was replaced as President by Mr Graeme Davey also from New Zealand.
In the period 1989 to 1994 the OBC Management Committee continued to be at the forefront in the organisation and development of basketball. Ever mindful of keeping up with changes in the sporting world, Secretary General Ramsay commenced negotiations with the Management Committee about the future employment of professional, full time staff within the organisation.
This resulted in the 1994 appointment of Mr Steve Smith as the OBC's first ever paid staff member. Appointed as the Zone Administrator, Smith's employment marked another milestone in the development of the zone.
Over the next couple of years, two full time Development Officers were appointed to the OBC staff to service the needs of the Pacific Island Basketball Federations. Mr Chris Jones was appointed in early 1995, but was replaced by Mr Stuart Manwaring in 1996. Mr Jon Hoyle was appointed in mid 1996.
At the Management Committee meeting of the OBC in Auckland New Zealand in 1996, Chairman Graeme Davey noted the earlier passing of Mrs Patricia Ramsay, and acknowledged her great contribution to the activities of the zone over many years. To preserve her memory the "Patricia Ramsay Award" was instituted, an award recognising outstanding administrative contributions made by people across the zone. The inaugural winner of this award in 1997 was Mr Lawrence Quan from the Solomon Islands, and in 1999 Mrs Lina Saurei from Vanuatu.
A Changing of the Guard:
At the meeting of the OBC Congress in Pago Pago, American Samoa in August 1997, long serving Secretary General Al Ramsay stood down from this position following 30 years in the role. Ramsay was delighted to see the meeting endorse his Deputy, Steve Smith, as the new OBC Secretary General.
However, this meeting did not signal the end of Ramsay's involvement with the OBC. Al Ramsay was elected to the position of OBC President, a fitting reward for his voluntary service over such a long period of time.
In taking on the role of Secretary General, Steve Smith became the first full time Secretary General of any FIBA zone.
In 1997 the Oceania 22 Years and Under Tournament commenced. This tournament was seen as a breakthrough in providing International competition for younger players across the Pacific region. The inaugural tournament was conducted in Suva, Fiji with Tahiti, Nauru, Fiji, Vanuatu and American Samoa participating.
The 2nd tournament was held in 1998 in Noumea and Poindimie, New Caledonia. This tournament represented the reappearance of Australian and New Zealand teams in Oceania island based competition. The Australian women had only competed in qualification events since 1985, whilst the New Zealand men and women had been absent from non-qualification competitions since 1989. The Australian men had last competed in 1993 at the Oceania Tournament in Western Samoa.
All of the island Federations very much welcomed the return of the basketball powerhouses, and were enthused at the opportunity to pit their skills against them. Australia and New Zealand entered teams of varying standards, giving many of their younger elite players the opportunity to represent their country.
At the meetings held in New Caledonia it was agreed that the 22 Years and Under Tournament would be conducted every 2 years.
The 3rd Tournament was conducted in Port Vila, Vanuatu in 2000. 14 teams representing the nations of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, Australia, American Samoa, Vanuatu, Fiji and Nauru participated in an outstanding tournament.
OBC took another exciting step in 1999 with the part-funding of full time basketball development officers across a number of Pacific Island countries. The Basketball Federations of Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, Palau and Papua New Guinea each employ a Development Officer part funded by the OBC. This step has provided experienced and competent staff to ensure the continued growth of basketball in their country.
At the OBC Congress in Guam in 1999 Mr Ken Clifford of Australia became the fourth Member of Honour. This honour was bestowed on Mr Clifford following his involvement over many years in the Referee programs of the zone.
In January 2001 the first ever Oceania All Star teams came together to participate in the Sydney Youth Olympic Festival. Players, coaches and referees representing the nations of Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa and New Caledonia combined to form these history making teams. The participants had been selected following the Oceania 22 Years and Under tournament. Australia and New Zealand players were not selected in the All Star team as these countries entered their own teams in the Youth Olympic Festival.
In 2002 the Oceania Basketball Confederation was officially renamed FIBA Oceania. This was due to FIBA's new global strategy to develop basketball across the world.
The 34 year history of FIBA Oceania has been marked by development, progress and friendship. The early days showed the "pioneering spirit" of basketball coaches and administrators, who travelled to remote regions in some very difficult circumstances. They were always welcomed by enthusiastic basketball supporters wherever they ventured. More recently, the regional tournaments and clinics have bought people from across our zone together in a spirit of friendly competition.
Our basketball power-house, Australia, is the pride of our zone. Their success at all levels is well deserved and a tribute to the development work done throughout Australia. The success of the Australian teams at International level has put the Oceania zone on the world basketball map. Because of the foresight of the Basketball Australia Board two World Championships and the Olympic Games basketball competition have come to our zone. Directly as a result of this New Zealand have been given opportunities to take part in these events as the Oceania qualifier.
Our Island Federations have taken up the challenge to develop their players, officials and facilities. International basketball competition is now available to open aged and under 22 year old players. The South Pacific Games, the Oceania Tournament, the Qualification events for FIBA competitions and the 22 Years and Under Tournaments all provide outstanding opportunities for elite players across the zone.
Through the continued co-operation between the Federations, FIBA Oceania and FIBA we will see basketball continue to grow and prosper across the Zone.