Last Sunday, Philippine Superliga President Ramon “Tats” Suzara and International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) executive committee member Dr. Stav Jacobi formally signed the memorandum of agreement for the Philippines’ historic hosting of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championships on October 18-23 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
For its past three editions, the tournament has been held in Zurich, Switzerland. The Philippines will be the second Asian country to host the event since Doha, Qatar hosted it back in 2010 to 2012.
According to Jacobi, the FIVB had focused on improving the on-court product for the past three tournaments. As they zoned-in on the competition side, Jacobi admitted that they had lost sight of the promotional aspect of the tournament, which Jacobi credits as Suzara’s strongest asset in running the PSL.
“We were really focused on what was happening within the court – on improving the rules and certain aspects of the game – for the past three seasons that we held the tournament in Switzerland,” said Jacobi, who also owns European powerhouse club Volero Zurich. “Now that we are branching out to Asia, we are now looking at improving the experience for the fans and promoting the sport.”
“This is Mr. Suzara’s best asset in the PSL. What I noticed when I visited last year for the opening of the Grand Prix Conference is that there was a lot of excitement and passion for the sport of volleyball here in the Philippines. Promoting the tournament here and everywhere else will get us much closer to making volleyball the premier women’s sport.”
For the first time in the tournament’s history, there will be eight competing teams.
Four slots have already been filled by South American heavyweight Rexona Ades Rio De Janero, CEV Denizbank Champions League contender Pomi Casalmaggiore, famed Thai club Bangkok Glass, and the Philippine Contingent. The four remaining wildcard spots will be given to teams that will undergo a stringent selection process conducted by the FIVB.
“This will be a great opportunity for local fans of the sport to see the Top 10 or maybe 20 players in the world. By October, we will be fresh from the Rio Olympics. Fans will get a chance plenty of the Olympians who competed for their country maybe battle it out on opposite ends of the court,” the Swiss FIVB executive noted.
Faced with the task of hosting the Philippines’ first world-class tournament in decades, Suzara trusts that everything will go smoothly with the cooperation of competition organizers and local media.
“It is a very tall task to host such a prestigious event. Adding that this will also be the Philippines first hosting of a world class event in a long while does add pressure but I am confident that with the help of everyone involved especially the local media, that this hosting will be a success,” Suzara remarked.
The Philippine Team
As for the Philippine team, the PSL’s president had revealed earlier that the squad will comprise of six local PSL players and six foreigners. When asked about the selection process for the local players, Suzara enthusiastically described the process as a Willie Wonka-style handing of “Golden Tickets.”
“As of now, we are considering plenty of names for the six slots for PSL players,” Suzara proclaimed. “We are planning to hand out what we like to call the ‘Golden Tickets’ to the local players.”
“We are also considering announcing the names one-by-one in the weeks leading up to the event.”
The six foreign players, according to Suzara, will be announced at a later time, but he made no guarantees that the Philippines can acquire top-tier, Olympic-level talents due to budget constraints. Despite this problem, he is looking to get help from Jacobi in getting world-class foreign talent.
Jacobi, aware of the zygotic state of Philippine volleyball, insisted that it is now about how the Philippine team will perform. For him, it is more important for the country to get its feet wet in this type of hosting and high-level competition.
“The Philippines needs this type of competition. It is not about if the Philippine team can win against the best in the world – it’s too soon for that,” the FIVB official said. “There should be no pressure to win – only to learn and take in as much of the experience as they can to help the continued improvement of volleyball.”
Suzara also assured that ticket prices, set be announced on June, will be “affordable” for the masses.
Aside from an exciting competition, the FIVB Club World Championships will also see several rule changes.
For the first time in volleyball, the tournament will feature a modifiable LED net. This innovation will provide opportunities for better advertising space on the court. As Jacoby stated, organizers were only able to set ads on small spaces on the tape of the net. Featuring ads, and possibly other game related quips, on a constantly changing LED opens more possibilities for volleyball tournaments.
This tournament will also use the Hawkeye video challenge system that is being used in tennis events.
Perhaps the biggest rule change announced was the addition of a countdown timer for servers. The FIVB’s competition committee noticed that matches were taking longer because of the excessive celebrations and rituals after points. Now, after a team gets a kill, they will have 15 seconds to get a serve across the court to speed up the game.
“The other five players can do whatever they want but the server has to get the ball across within 15 seconds after a point or else her team will incur an error,” Jacoby remarked.
Photos by Roman Prospero (PSL Images)