Jacqui Stephenson (far right) had played football for Rivals in Nelson and had followed football for a number of years, as husband Mike is a referee in Wellington.
She had been a netball umpire but when her two children were old enough decided to join the Wellington Referees in 2005.
Jacqui attributes her rapid rise to the small number of women in referee ranks, the assistance from other referees and having been part of the referee scene for many years.
“Refereeing has been just great for me,” says Jacqui. “It keeps me fit, I’ve met many different people and had the opportunity to travel in New Zealand and overseas. I have officiated in many OFC Tournaments throughout the Pacific. I’ve also been to the Algarve Cup in Portugal, Peace Queen Cup in Korea and the FIFA Women’s U17 Tournaments in NZ, Trinidad and Tobago and Azerbaijan. All of these appointments have been a huge honour for me. I was also very humbled to have officiated at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2011.”
“I want to be the very best I can be and be ready when that phone call comes. I believe that if you think you can do it then you can.”
“It doesn’t bother me being one of the few women. In fact it acts as a spur. I want to prove that women can be involved in top men’s games.”
“My goal is to continue to put OFC women officials on the world stage and by being selected for three FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup's and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany I think I am contributing to this.
I would also like to be a role model and assist in helping other women to reach their goals and continue to put OFC on the world stage in future.
To complete the full set of FIFA tournaments would be the ultimate. Age wise I have five years to hopefully achieve this so I need to keep working hard to be considered for a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup and the Olympic Games.”
Family and Work
This is not easy especially when you have a family. It’s hard to find a balance between training, games and spending enough quality time with my two children. I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband who does all he can to help me reach my goals. Another issue is work. I’m an aquarobics instructor and replacements are always required. I’m lucky to have an understanding employer although it means leave without pay.
Advice to Others
“My advice to others is it’s a tough road ahead but with hard work, commitment, support and passion to succeed then you will and it makes it all the nicer when you reach your goal. There will be setbacks but you must always look forward and never give up.”
Jacqui has followed Linda Black (Sweden 1987, China 1991) and Lynn Fox (Sydney 2000) in a select group of female New Zealand referees at FIFA Women's World Cups.