Tribute to Annabel Pennefather, Trailblazer for Women and Sport

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It was with great sadness that the International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport learned of Annabel Pennefather’s passing on 27 April 2020, aged 71. 

The IWG would like to pay tribute to Annabel’s service to the women and sport movement, as follows:


From Sue Neill, former Co-Chair of IWG and FIH Executive Board member.

“Annabel’s introduction to sport was through the sport of hockey. Her father was an Olympian and her mother played for the National Team of Singapore – how could Annabel not become a hockey player?

She held many positions in hockey starting as President of the Singapore Hockey Federation but then moving to take on more global positions – Vice President of the Asian Hockey Federation, Chair of the FIH Umpiring Committee, FIH Executive Board Member, FIH Vice President and most recently President of the FIH Judicial Commission. 

But Annabel did not only spend her time in Board rooms. She was also a respected technical official and was appointed to many technical positions at tournaments around the world including as Tournament Director for the 2000 hockey tournament at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Annabel’s training and experience as a lawyer held her in good stead in her various positions in hockey and in other sports.  That, coupled with her unflappable, gracious manner and her insistence on fairness and integrity made her a valued member of any decision-making team.”


From Anita White, Chair of the 1994 Brighton Conference and first Co-Chair of IWG

“I knew Annabel as a strong advocate and leader of the Women and Sport movement in Singapore and Asia during the late 90s and early 2000s. Following the 1994 Brighton Conference, Singapore were one of the first countries to endorse the Brighton Declaration and set up a Women and Sport Working Group to turn the Declaration’s principles into practice. Annabel was the Chair of this group and provided strong leadership to it.

She also supported Etsuko Ogasawara in bringing Asian countries together to form the Asian Women in Sport Group. This group helped spread the message and raise awareness about equity for women and sport within Asia, and held several conferences. It also ensured support for the first IWG conference to be held in Kumamoto, Japan, in 2006. Singapore hosted the IWG’s annual meeting in 2005, and group members were all enormously impressed with the work the Women and Sport Working Group were doing, as well as enjoying Singapore’s superb hospitality.

There were very few women in leadership roles in Asian sport in Annabel’s time – she was one of the first. She had superb communication skills and defined and negotiated her role thoughtfully, gaining the widespread respect of male and female colleagues alike with her principled approach to sport issues. She was an excellent role model for other women in Singapore and around the world.

I feel very privileged to have known and worked with her. Without doubt she was one of the leading lights of the Women and Sport movement in her time, and will be sorely missed.”


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