Men's winner will still earn more than women's

Updated: April 26, 2006, 7:57 AM ET
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- Wimbledon insists it's fair to pay the men more than the women. The women call it sex discrimination.

The All England Club said Tuesday the men's champion will receive $1.170 million and the women's winner $1.117 million -- a 4 percent increase for both in British currency. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament with unequal prizes for the two champions.

"This issue is one of a judgment on fairness," All England Club 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."

WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott accused Wimbledon of a "Victorian-era view."

"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," he said.

Venus Williams, the defending champion and three-time winner, said the women simply want to be treated equally.

"This is not just about women's tennis but about women all over the world," she told BBC Radio before Wimbledon's announcement. "At Wimbledon we would like to have equal prize money to prove that we are equal on all fronts."

Billie Jean King, who won a record 20 Wimbledon titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, was baffled by the decision.

"Over the years Wimbledon has always been one of the leaders in our sport in so many areas," King said. "Because of that, it is truly amazing to me that all of these years later they still have not stepped up and done the right thing on the prize money issue."

The French Open said this month it would pay the men's and women's champions the same for the first time, although the overall prize fund is bigger for the men. The two other majors, the Australian Open and U.S. Open, have paid equal prize money for years.

Overall, prize money for the June 26-July 9 Wimbledon championships will be $18.5 million, a 2.9 percent increase from last year.

Maria Sharapova, ranked No. 3, won Wimbledon in 2004 and is one of the game's most prominent players.

"Women's tennis players are getting as many sponsors and media coverage as the men," Sharapova said. "I understand that our TV ratings at the Grand Slams are pretty much equal to and often better than the men. So I don't understand the rationale for paying the men more than us."

Phillips said because top men rarely play in Grand Slam doubles events, they earn less overall than women. In addition, the men play best-of-five set matches while the women play best of three.

"It just doesn't seem right to us that the lady players could play in three events and could take away significantly more than the men's champion who battles away through these best-of-five matches," Phillips said. "We don't see it as an equal rights issue."

With $53,600 difference in prize money between the men's and women's winners, Phillips said the issue was one of principle.

"Obviously, it's something that could be done and we could respond to the pressure that we come under by doing something that we fundamentally don't think would be fair on the men," he said. "We also would point that the top 10 ladies last year earned more from Wimbledon that the top 10 men did."

Organizers added that this year's tournament won't use Hawk-Eye computer technology to review disputed line calls. Last month, the ATP and WTA tours decided to test the device in selected tournaments. This year's U.S. Open will be the first Grand Slam to use the technology.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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