Wimbledon to offer equal pay to women

Wimbledon has finally discarded a controversial tradition as women, at last, will be paid as much as the men.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Wimbledon has finally discarded a controversial tradition as women, at last, will be paid as much as the men. After years of holding out against equal pay, the All England Club yielded to 21st century realities on Thursday and agreed to offer the same prize money to both sexes at the world's most prestigious tennis tournament. "I knew it was just a matter of time. They resisted the longest they could. They have made the right decision and they really had no choice," defending Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo said. The move puts Wimbledon in line with the other Grand Slams. The US Open and Australian Open have paid equal prize money for years. The French Open paid the men's and women's champions the same for the first time last year, although the overall prize fund remained bigger for the men. Wimbledon will pay equal money from the first round through the final at the June 25-July 8 grass-court championships. "It's good news for all the women players, and recognizes their major contribution to Wimbledon and we also believe it will serve as a positive encouragement for women in sports. In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon," club chairman Tim Phillips said. Factors involved Wimbledon cited a combination of commercial, political and sporting factors for the decision. "We think now is absolutely the right time to make this move. We have a reputation both for the championships and for the All England Club and we have to look after that," Phillips added. The WTA Tour had lobbied for years to get Wimbledon to adopt equal pay. "This is an historic and defining moment for women in the sport of tennis, and a significant step forward for the equality of women in our society," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said. The All England Club previously held out against equal prizes as a matter of principle. Phillips had cited surveys showing that men give better value than the women. The men play best-of-five set matches, while the women play best of three. Also, the women make more money overall because they also play in doubles, while the top men usually play only singles. That thinking, however, has changed. "I don't think that the amount of time that somebody spends on the court or the closeness of the matches is the pre-eminent factor in reaching a conclusion on this." "We looked at the commercial factors very much in the past, as much as the political ones. We look at it on the whole," club chief executive Ian Ritchie said. Phillips also said that "broader social factors" played a part, noting that 55 per cent of Wimbledon's spectators were women and that the club will host the 2012 Olympic tennis tournament. "The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today," three-time champion Venus Williams said. Six-time singles champion Billie Jean King, a pioneer for women's sports, said the decision was "a long time coming." "With women and men paid on an equal scale, it demonstrates to the rest of the world that this is the right thing to do for the sport, the tournament and the world," she said. Wimbledon's prize fund will be announced in April. It will cost the club about $1.1 million to ensure equal pay, an increase that will be funded through operating costs rather than a reduction in the overall purse.