Wimbledon announces end to gender pay gap

Officials at the Wimbledon tennis championships have announced that they will pay equal prize money to women for the first time this year.    

All England Club chairman Tim Phillips announced that the championship committee had decided that "the time is right to bring this subject to a logical conclusion and eliminate the difference."   

Wimbledon had been the only one of tennis's four Grand Slam tournaments -- the others are the Australian Open, the French Open and US Open -- which makes no concession whatsoever to the concept of gender equality in prize money. The amounts have yet to be published, but equality will be "across the board," Phillips added.    

"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,"

Female players and other influential figures outside tennis have made repeated complaints about the pay gap to the All England Club, which owns the Wimbledon grounds in south-west London and runs the last major tournament  played on grass.   
But the club consistently defended their stance, stating that men are required to play the best of five sets and women only the best of three.   

However, Billie Jean King, the six-times Wimbledon women's singles winner and a pioneer of the modern women's tour, denounced that argument last year by saying: "Entertainers don't get paid by the hour. They just get paid."    

She was supported in her view by Tessa Jowell, Britain's Culture Secretary, who voiced her "deep concern" over the issue of equal pay.    In 2006, Roger Federer, the Wimbledon men's singles champion, earned 655,000 pounds while his female counterpart, Amelie Mauresmo, was paid 625,000 pounds.    

With the championships generating an annual profit of some 25 million pounds, Larry Scott, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour, said Wimbledon's relatively small disparity in prize money between the sexes was a "social and political statement".   

At present, both the Australian and US Opens pay equal prize money. Last year the French Open said only the champions at Roland Garros would receive the same amount.    

Wimbledon is widely regarded as the most traditionalist of all tennis tournaments, with players still obliged to follow the All England rule of wearing "predominately white" clothing when on court.    

Amelie Mauresmo commented:-

“It's definitely a victory for women in general. I said it was a matter of time, and it was. They made the right decision and they had no choice, for the equality of men and women in the world, to make that choice. It's great that they did it and now the French Open is going to struggle staying back. I think we're going to have to take a step forward.”

Venus Williams said:-

“The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today. I applaud today's decision by Wimbledon, which recognises the value of women's tennis. The 2007 Championships will have even greater meaning and significance to me and my fellow players.”     

John McEnroe added:-

“I think when you've got men and women playing at the same tournament, it is ludicrous to have a difference in pay. It would be setting an example to the rest of society in general to have equal prize money. There's probably no other sport, and very few professions in this world, where a woman can earn as much as a man”.

Posted by, Asif Yusuf




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