Sore point on tennis prizes
PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:06 22 October 2010
The US open has had equal prize money for more than 30 years, the Australian on and off since 1984 and even the French have now seen the error of their ways…which just leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam tournament where it is decided on gender. TARA GREAVES says the All England Club needs to raise its game.
The US open has had equal prize money for more than 30 years, the Australian on and off since 1984 and even the French have now seen the error of their ways…which just leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam tournament where it is decided on gender.
TARA GREAVES says the All England Club needs to raise its game.
When Serena and Venus Williams were growing up in California they used to pretend they were playing matches on the famous Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Like tennis loving children across the world, the talented sisters often imagined holding aloft the glittering trophy in front of a jubilant, cheering crowd.
For them, the dream simply did not get any better.
What a let down it must be then to find that the home of tennis - arguably the ultimate stage in sport - is now also the only major tournament where a disparity in prize money between the sexes still exists.
For this bastion to send a message to the rest of the world that men are worth more than women must be a kick in the teeth to the female players who have to work just as hard to get to the top.
According to the All England Club, £30,000 is what separates the female players from the male.
So what does that extra money account for?
Is it that men play five sets and women three (although, really, who wants to sit and watch five hours of tennis when three would do? And, actually, don't some of the men win in three too?) or that male players serve faster (though some might say that actually detracts from the game).
If we look at it statically women's rallies last longer so perhaps the ladies should claw £10,000 back for that? The top women also play more doubles matches which mean they work even harder - perhaps they deserve £20,000 for that?
In fact, the sum of money that separates the two is pretty meaningless - the women's singles winner this year will get £625,000 compared to £655,000 for the men.
The point that the gap is there at all is what has angered a number of high profile stars.
Writing in yesterday's Times, defending champion Venus Williams said the decision of the All England Club to treat women as lesser players than men has a particular sting.
“There is nothing like playing at Wimbledon; you an feel the footprints of the legends of the game - men and women - that have graced those courts. There isn't a player who doesn't dream of holding aloft the Wimbledon trophy.
“I'm disappointed not for myself but for all of my fellow women players who have struggled so hard to get here and who, just like the men, give their all on the courts of SW19,” she writes.
“I'm disappointed for the great legends of the game, such as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who have never stopped fighting for equality.
“And disappointed that the home of tennis is sending a message to women across the world that we are inferior.”
The total pot for prizes in men's events comes to £5,197,440 - three-quarters of a million pounds more than the £4,446,490 up for grabs in ladies' events.
Profits at the all England club are about £25m.
Two months ago, the French Open announced it would offer the same prize money for men's and women's champions, leaving Wimbledon alone among major tournaments in operating two different prize scales.
Last week, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell wrote an open letter to the All England Club demanding equal pay, saying she was “deeply concerned at the ongoing disparity between the money paid to male and female players”.
Williams' sister and former Wimbledon champion Serena is not playing in this year's event due to injury while Venus is scheduled to play Bethanie Mattek today .
Last Friday, the Fawcett Society, a charity which campaigns for equality between women and men, revealed the results of a survey which showed that 80pc of all people in the UK felt the club was wrong to treat players unequally on the issue of pay.
But the club say the reason for the disparity is actually to be fair to male players because last year the top 10 women earned 4pc more than the equivalent men.
Defending the club's stance, chairman Tim Phillips said: “We believe that what we do at the moment is actually fair to the men as well as to the women.”
His view comes because men play five sets to the women's three and the top men rarely play doubles so earn less overall than women.
He added: “It doesn't seem right to us that lady players could play in three events and could take away significantly more than the men's champion who battles through these best of five matches.”
Rubbish. What is to stop the men playing three sets and joining in the doubles or the women going up to five if that is what it boils down to?
There can be no excuse for the All England Club's sexism - on that point, it is game, set and match to the ladies.
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