The pay issue in professional tennis has ingredients that captivate the mind: authority versus player, man versus woman. The issue has reached boiling point with the announcement of the All England Club. Reports CNN:
The All England Club announced on Tuesday that its singles winners would receive a four percent increase, but with the men’s champion receiving 30,000 pounds ($51,000) more than his female counterpart.
This leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam which gives away less prize money to its champions. French Open announced equal pay for its champions earlier this year. However, they still give more money to the men compared to the women. The US Open gives its prize money down the middle though as seen by the 2005 distribution.
The women are fuming. Former player’s Chris Evert and Billie Jean King’s views from the same CNN article:
Three-time winner Chris Evert called the decision “a black mark for the sport.”
“Wimbledon should do the right thing and award all women’s players equal pay to the men,” added the American.
Six-time winner Billie Jean King said: “Wimbledon needs to join the modern world on this issue.”
The current players are making no small talk either. Venus William’s says, almost threatening:
“We want to be treated equally as the men. This is not just about women’s tennis but about women all over the world,” she told BBC Sport.” At Wimbledon we would like to have equal prize money to prove that we are equal on all fronts.
“We will keep lobbying on the matter. We don’t want to deprive fans from seeing women’s tennis but we are willing to be extremely proactive in our stance.”
Maria Sharapova has logic to back her:
“Women’s tennis players are getting as many sponsors and media coverage as the men, and I understand that our TV ratings at the Grand Slams are pretty much equal to and often better than the men so I don’t understand the rationale for paying the men more than us.”
All England Club chairman Tim Phillips counters the views. From Fox sports:
Phillips said the WTA Tour paid 63 percent less to players in an average week than the ATP Masters Series did.
“Whereas we’re 87 percent,” Phillips said. “So it seems to me we are much closer to equal prize money than they are on the rest of the tour.”
One issue, a lot of statements and a lot of layers if the surface is scratched a bit. Women give as much effort as men. So why should they not be paid equally is one argument. Well, I am sure the curling players also give as much effort. So why not pay them money too then? Or why not pay all the women equally then as they all put as much effort?
The second argument from the other side borders on insanity. Women play three sets and not five. So they are bound to be played less. Michael Jordan does not play basketball any more. Still he earns more than many women players. So maybe Jordan should come out of retirement? Or what about boxers. They box far less compared to how much time tennis players play. So maybe they should be paid less then?
The airtime question comes up. As women occupy less airtime because there matches are shorter, the sponsors get much less exposure. So it is justified that the players are paid less. Well, women have played five-set tournaments in the WTA season ending championships. So it is not as if the women aren’t capable of playing five sets. So do women have to play five sets at Wimbledon to get equal prize money?
The question I want to ask is, why is the WTA paying women lower compared to the ATP if we exclude the Grand Slams? Should not the WTA, champions of equality, pay women equivalent to what men get by the stand they take? The opposition to this is on the lines – ‘it is the WTA’s business what it does in other tournaments. When men and women, both play, we should get equal prize money.’
I scoff at the idea. The issue is not about women’s rights. The issue is not about equality. The issue is about market worth. If women’s tennis is more sellable, I would not grudge it even paying more than men’s tennis does. I do not like that the other three Grand Slams have succumbed to the pressure tactics in one way or another, at one point or the other.
Women’s tennis and men’s tennis are different sports. So if one has more spectators than the other, one gets more revenue and distributes more to the players. The issue of equal prize money is not new. A feedback to BBC from 2002 looks as relevant now as it did back then.
I spoke on the issue with blogger Sujatha Bagal who could give a proper woman’s angle on the issue:
The market forces theory is good, but it does not take into account so many other relevant variables Market forces can be created if there is the will. Equal prize money is about recognizing women for the effort they’ve put in, acknowledging that they’ve reached the pinnacle of their sport and rewarding them for it. Why are women’s finals played on Saturdays while men’s are on Sundays?
Why are the market forces not created then? If I was a promoter of a tournament, I would look at maximizing the demand. Or is it just a case of revenues not going back to the players who generate them?
The WTA stars certainly believe they deserve higher pay. Wimbledon would bear huge losses if the stars do not turn up. With three Grand Slams agreeing to the demand of the women, Wimbledon’s stands weak on the bargaining table regardless of how fair this is. The women know it and are letting Wimbledon know it as well.
I do have an issue with equality though. The female prostitutes get paid a lot more than the male prostitutes because there is higher demand for the female prostitutes. It would look very silly if the male prostitutes ask for equal pay. The platforms are different but the point of contention remains the same.