Press release

Female referees presence in FIVB Volleyball Women’s Junior World Championship Peru 2011

Hong Kong's Heung Fai Lee (left) and United States' Patricia Rolf are two of three female referees participating in the FIVB Volleyball Women's Junior World Champioship Peru 2011, along with Thailand's Janpen Jirakakul

Lima, Peru, July 31, 2011 - Until a few years ago, it was uncommon for a woman to work in some professions: one of them was refereeing an international volleyball match.

Although volleyball has important international tournaments and championships for women only, female referees are only recently increasing in population through initiatives of the FIVB to expand participation. The FIVB is making changes and progress each year to promote female referee participation at the local, regional and international levels in order to have more women officials in matches as a way of gender equality.

In the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Junior World Championship Peru 2011, there are three women referees: Heung Fai Lee from Hong Kong; Janpen Jirakakul from Thailand; and Patricia Rolf from United States. Lee has been an FIVB international referee since 1999. Jirakakul reached international referee status in 2000. Rolf has been refereeing since the last decade, being nominated for FIVB international referee in 2003.

Live scoring, results, news and photos on FIVB Volleyball Women's Junior World Championship Peru 2011.

During the first round of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Junior World Championship Peru 2011 held in Lima, all three female referees were assigned together in the same location creating an unusual, but positive situation in showing the progress being made in establishing female international referees.

Jirakakul and Lee refereed the Russia versus Japan match on July 24. Rolf and Lee have teamed up twice to officiate together – the Peru versus Belgium contest on July 30 and the Belgium versus Slovakia match on July 31.

The FIVB currently has 67 female international referee candidates, including 15 nominations approved in 2011.

Jirakakul is the first female referee from Thailand has ever produced. She has officiated a number of international matches, including an unforgettable match between the Netherlands and Japan in the 2007 FIVB World Grand Prix that ended in a Netherlands’ five-set victory. In 2010, the FIVB appointed her to officiate during the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship in Japan.

Lee, a former volleyball player in college, came to a crossing point in her life in how to stay involved in the sport.

“I was a volleyball player in college,” Lee said. “At about age 16, I had a choice – being a player or referee. I don’t think I was a fantastic player.”

That led Lee down the path as Hong Kong’s first-ever female volleyball referee.

“It was my dream, and I got it,” said Lee, who has gone on to officiate in FIVB World Grand Prix matches for the past 10 years.

As with Lee, Jirakakul was already involved with the sport when the referee career materialized.

“I love volleyball,” Jirakakul said. “Mr. Chareonpong Songsak is my idol in Thailand and wanted to follow him for being a referee. Thus, I became the first female referee in my country.”

Rolf, a USA Volleyball registered national referee since 1990 and member of the United States’ Professional Association of Volleyball Officials Hall of Fame, first gained international officiating exposure at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta as a line judge. Since then, she has worked FIVB World Cups, the Pan American Cup, the Boris Yeltsin Cup - where she met Yeltsin, and was a reserve for the FIVB World League.

“It is an honor to officiate in such a prestigious event as the FIVB Women’s Junior World Championship,” said the globe-trotting Rolf, who earlier this year officiated during the Montreux Volley Masters event in Switzerland. “To be a part of something that allows women the opportunity to compete at the highest level is something in which I have always wanted to be involved. It is also a tremendous honor to represent women in the FIVB and bring exposure to all women worldwide.”

The progress in developing future talent has not gone unnoticed.

“It has come very far,” Rolf said in terms of female referees entering the international candidate pool. “This year while in Montreux, Switzerland, they hosted the first women’s international officiating seminar. Approximately 35 women attended from Europe. It was fantastic to meet so many young women who want to advance their skills. I believe it is very important to have women involved in the women’s game.  They must be supported; however, it is not an easy career with the culture and with the responsibility women have to their families. I am fortunate to have a husband who stays home full time to take care of the family.”

Rolf mentioned that she has never before this tournament worked with so many female referees at the same international event, and that is a positive.

“This is the first event I have ever worked with so many women,” Rolf said. “This is also the first year I have ever worked with another woman. While at Volley Masters in Switzerland I worked with Ingeborg Kooter from Holland. She and I were assigned the finals and it was a fantastic experience.”

According to Jirakakul, cultural status within some countries has been an obstacle the FIVB has needed to overcome.

“The FIVB has a good program for adding women as international referees,” Jirakakul said. “However, in my culture, women are not at the same level as men. However, officiating is not different between men and women.”

Jirakakul mentioned officiating the China versus Japan match at the 2008 Olympic as her fondest memory in her referee career as it was with Kun-Tae Kim of Korea. She also paired with Czech Republic’s Karin Zahorcova to referee the Italy versus Algeria match during the 2008 Olympic Games to become the first female pair to referee the same Olympic match.

While progress is being made to include more female international referee candidates, Rolf looks to take an active role in the development of new referees.

“I hope to also be involved in the future to mentor future International Referees,” Rolf said.

Lee said she has a new dream now.

“I would like to be the first from Hong Kong to officiate at the Olympic Games,” Lee said.

All three female referees in Peru for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Junior World Championship Peru 2011 have paid their international dues through various championships like FIVB World Grand Prix and FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship. With their experience in officiating a match, they have blended into the matches and allowing the players on the court to settle a match just as if a male referee was in charge.

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