Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wimbledon Women: Show Us the (Men's) Money

The women playing Wimbledon this year are creating some noise over the inequality in championship money between the men's and women's champion. Says Chris Evert:
In the 21st century, it is morally indefensible that women competitors in a Grand Slam tournament should be receiving considerably less prize money than their male counterparts.
The article notes that Wimbledon is paying roughly $1.17 million to the men's champion while paying roughly $1.12 million to the women's champion. That's a difference of roughly 5 percent.

I agree it's morally indefensible for unequal pay for the equal "work." But is the work equal?

Men play a best of 5 series while women play a best of 3 series. If I take a middle of the road approach, let's say the men's champion wins each of his matches 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, and the women's champion wins each of her matches 6-3, 6-3. The tournament is 7 rounds long, and the men's champion will have played 189 games to the woman's to the woman's 126, or about 33% more games.

Or, let's look at last year's results. Roger Federer's road to the championship:

6-4, 6-2, 6-4 (Paul-Henri Mathieu)
6-4, 6-4, 6-1 (Ivo Minar)
6-2, 6-7, 6-1, 7-5 (Nicolas Kiefer)
6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (Juan Carlos Ferrero)
7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (Fernando Gonzalez)
6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (Lleyton Hewitt)
6-2, 7-6, 6-4 (Andy Roddick)

That's a total of 223 games by my count. Now, the women's champion, Venus Williams:

6-2, 6-4 (Eva Birnerova)
7-5, 6-3 (Nicole Pratt)
7-5, 6-3 (Daniela Hantuchova)
6-0, 6-2 (Jill Craybas)
6-0, 7-6 (Mary Pierce)
7-6, 6-1 (Mario Sharapova)
4-6, 7-6, 9-7 (Lindsay Davenport)

By my count that's 143 games. Or, about 36% less games than the men's champion.

The stats are all from Wimbledon.org, and the only unfortunate thing is that they didn't post the elapsed time of the matches.

So, let's see, about a third less work for 5 percent less pay. What is the complaint about again? The only way I can see this complaint being valid is if the women's game generates more revenue than the men's game. Given that the men's games are long I can't see how that's possible.

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