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View Full Version : Equal pay at Wimbledon: Wertheim rides again


Volcana
Mar 3rd, 2007, 06:29 AM
Okay, so the guy is making all the same arguement I made. Can't I pretend I'm posting this because he's so insightful?

I suppose you are crowing now that Wimbledon has capitulated to the ridiculous claim by women tennis players for equal pay for less work? Where is the backbone of the men in the ATP who agree to play longer hours for the same pay? Where, pray tell, is the equality? Why not just have one championship open to all players regardless of gender?
-- Al Ferg, Sherbrooke
Though most communiqués weren't as pointed as Al's, the most popular topic this week was, predictably, the decision at the All-England Club to award women equal prize money. I wouldn't say I'm crowing -- as one voice of reason pointed out, we shouldn't get too worked up over athlete salaries. But I do think the All-England Club made the right call.
If the disparity in pay had simply been about unequal pay for unequal work, the women would have been paid 60 pence on the pound, representing best-of-three-sets versus best-of five. That the women were paid something like 96 percent of the men's wages, made it -- perversely -- worse, suggesting this was little more than a petty symbolic statement.

Here again is my stance.

A) The number of sets is a red herring. We could just as easily base "work" on shots struck per match. The name of the game is entertainment value and as long as women have the commercial appeal of men at majors (sometimes they do; sometimes they don't -- but it sure is close) they deserve equal wages.

B) The difference in pay was so minimal that the bad publicity vastly outstripped the savings.

So far, really ordinary. But then he gets to the good stuff.
While on balance, I applaud this decision, I find the WTA's gloating a bit disingenuous. Check out the prize money from last year and you'll see that the year-end ATP Masters Cup pays nearly 50 percent more than the analogous WTA Championship. The typical Masters Series event pays nearly double the WTA Tier 1. If I'm a WTA exec, I'm not sure how I respond to the question, "How can you clamor for equal prize money when the market consistently suggests your product is worth less?"

One could contend that a combined event is different from a tour event and that, so long as men and women both play on Centre Court, both receive commensurate television coverage, they should be paid equally. Still, I wonder whether, with this victory, Amelie Mauresmo, Venus Williams and Co. will now seek answers as to why, say, their 50th-ranked colleague (Severine Bremond) made nearly half as much as the 50th-ranked male (Nicolas Kiefer) last year.
Push comes to shove, the women seem to be worth as much in the semis and finals of a slam, but half as much in the 2nd round of a Tier III. And of course, if you're Venus or Serena, your presence virtually guarantees MORE profit from a slam final.

Would you like to be the person who figures out how the prize money should work in a situation like that? Imagine the discussion.

"If Serena is in the final, we'll make an extra three million in ad revenue. So she should get more for being in the final than Elena Dementieva."

That's totally unworkable.

NOTE: Jon Wertheim, you have noted that we by and large loath you here. Well, 'loath' is a bit strong. 'Detest'? 'Despise'? Who knows? Just want to mention that you actually do good work. It's just our nature, as ardent fans of a niche sport, to hate the tennis literati. Don't take it personally.

Brian Stewart
Mar 3rd, 2007, 07:13 AM
Actually, I'd say that Wertheim has moved a little further away from "loathed" than most tennis writers. He seems to, at least on occasion, listen to and consider opposing viewpoints. Of course, sometimes, when he makes "his" points (:)), he doesn't include enough detail.

And one thing I would point out to him in the tour-vs-tour prize money discussion, there are other factors involved than merely the "marketability" of the tours. A few years ago, an ESPN exec. said they would "never" pay any rights fees for women's tennis. At the time, the WTA matches were drawing more than double the viewers of ESPN's NHL telecasts, for which they were paying $100 million per year. If you're a student in a business class, and were given the blind example "If a television network is paying $100 million per year for the rights to televise Sport A, and Sport B consistently draws more than double the viewers, even across the 'most desired' demographics, what would the television rights for Sport B be worth?" Basic math and logic tells you it's over $200 million per year.

Even given that the NHL's fees were overinflated (and have since come down), the basic fact is that the WTA is "worth" more than double what the NHL is to American TV networks. And considering that the NHL is heavily promoted, while the WTA is virtually ignored, these numbers represent a minimum disparity. If the WTA actually were televised, and promoted by the network, it would grow.

Keep in mind that corporations and networks are run by the "old boys". So, the sponsorship dollars that the WTA can generate aren't purely a reflection of their value. It's also a reflection of prejudice. Those in charge refuse to pay the women what they're worth.

gopher
Mar 3rd, 2007, 08:05 AM
Keep in mind that corporations and networks are run by the "old boys".


Those days are DEFINITELY over, except for maybe Australia...

Volcana
Mar 3rd, 2007, 02:12 PM
Even given that the NHL's fees were overinflated (and have since come down), the basic fact is that the WTA is "worth" more than double what the NHL is to American TV networks. And considering that the NHL is heavily promoted, while the WTA is virtually ignored, these numbers represent a minimum disparity. You pick an interesting sport as an example, considering that ESPN pretty much dropped Hockey, and they've moved to the Outdoor Life Network. (Now called Versus, I think). The NHL All-Star came last month drew less thana million veiwers. In the entire United States.

In short, women's tennis IS worth way more than hockey, and ESPN knows it. That's why they show show SOME women's matches in their coverage.

If the WTA actually were televised, and promoted by the network, it would grow.I'm not sure that last is true. American cable TV coverage of women's tennis DID increase substantially in 2002 and 2003. But with season ending injuries (V&S), retirement (Kournikova, Hingis) or just absence (Seles, Capriati), striking down ALL of the wta's drawing cards, suddenly, the ratings just weren't there anymore. Hantuchova vs Schiavone just didn't draw the TV audience that Hingis vs Venus did.

NO sports, except football (both types) could survive the loss of ALL its stars without significant damage to TV ratings. And that's what happened to women's tennis. Mind you, they still had good players. They still had GREAT players. But when it came down to players who put an extra couple hundred thousand to an extra couple million viewers in front of TV sets, there were six in 2002. And by the 2003 US Open, none of them were anywhere in sight.