Thursday, February 22, 2007

Equal Pay for Equal Work at Wimbledon

In 2007, at long last, men and women will receive the same prizes at the Wimbledon tennis competition. Tim Phillips, Chairman of the All England Club, announced the decision by stating in part: “Tennis is one of the few sports in which women and men compete in the same event at the same time. We believe our decision to offer equal prize money provides a boost for the game as a whole and recognises the enormous contribution that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon. We hope it will also encourage girls who want a career in sport to choose tennis as their best option. In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon.”


Gilles said...


It may not be politically correct to write so on this blog, but do you really think that equal pay should come with... unequal work?

In Grand Slams (Wimbledon, Flushing, Melbourne, Rolland Garros), women play only 3 sets, when men play 5. In normal 1 week long tournaments, everybody plays 3 sets. I therefore submit that all tournaments EXCEPT Grand Slams should pay men and women equally. Hopefully, the French open (where five set matches have lasted up to five hours) will continue to pay men more.

Walker said...

I am actually going to disagree and say all grand slams should feature the same pay for men and women, and use the same rules and game set-up. I think is absurdly sexist to think that women cannot play best-of-5 set matches. Women play basketball and soccer under the same time constraints as men, and women run races (even marathons and ultramarathons) that are the same distance as what men run. The big physical difference between men and women in sports is raw strength-- not mental toughness or endurance. Plus, I think having best-of-5 set matches would make the women's sport more enjoyable: Serenna would actually have to train to get through a best-of-5, unlike her recent win over Sharapova where Serenna came in noticeably overweight. In terms of equal work for equal pay, let's be honest-- the additional set or two is not some great barrier to women-- a vast majority of the work in tennis (99%) is in training, lifestyle, schedule, professional risk (never being sure how much you will earn), etc. Plus, women tennis players, while only playing 3 set matches, still bring in as much as men. How about equal pay for equal earning power?

tekel said...

The economic drivers that allow professional sports like tennis to exist are product endorsements, ticket sales to competitions, and TV broadcast rights. I freely admit that I don't know (and I'm much much too lazy) to look up what the percentage breakdown of money in tennis is these days between tickets, TV, and endorsements, but the exact distribution isn't important to my argument.

The athlete providing the endorsement earns the fee by demonstrating individual athletic prowess, and keeps all of that money for him or herself. This is as it should be.

Rather than arguing that prize money for competitions should be tied to the time on the court, which would imply some kind of (admittedly high) hourly wage, why not do the gender-neutral thing and award prize money based on ticket sales for the events? It would be more like a rock concert, where the artist gets a percentage of the ticket sales for the venue.

If the women's singles final draws more spectators (at the same ticket price) than the mens's final does, and/or has a larger TV audience, women should rightfully be paid MORE than men.

Set a floor of $100k for the winner of each sex, and award another 25% of the sale price for the tickets to their events, and another $50K for each for Nielsen point, and then let the fans decide who should be paid more.

Gilles said...

I think that I probably agree with both of you, even with Walker. If women play as long, no problem any more.
I also agree that tennis could be regarded as a show and paid accordingly. If one focuses on tickets, an interesting investigation could be conducted in exhibitions, where tickets for men matches were probably higher in the past (say with Connors and Mc Enroe). Today, however, I guess that Sharapova is very bankable, and that another match against Serena would a hit.
In Grand Slams, it is my intuition that stadiums are always full, and that the difference could come from TV.

tekel said...

exactly, as long as ticket prices are the same. I'm making an appeal to pure economics here: if tickets to the women's final cost more than the men's, e.g. for a Sharapova vs Serena matchup rather than (jeez, I don't even know any male tennis players anymore, Federer v. Roddick or something like that I guess?) whoever the guys are, then again the prize for the women's championship should be more $$$ than the men's.