Road To The Olympic Games

Money at Play·Opinion

Indian Wells' former director raises age-old debate of equal pay for male, female athletes

Money at Play columnist Deidra Dionne examines the issue of equal pay for men and women tennis players - and why they are better served fighting together for a bigger share of the purse together.

Combining men's and women's tours gives tennis a platform unlike any other sport

Comments from Raymond Moore, centre, the (now former) director of the Indian Wells tennis tournament, set off a firestorm of criticism, including comments from both Serena Williams, left, and Novak Djokovic, right. (Photos by The Associated Press)

Today, someone is quietly whispering in Raymond Moore's ear "because it's 2016."  

Moore boldly shared his view on equal prize money before the power of social media and the Internet ultimately lead to him resigning Tuesday morning.

Overnight, he became the face of chauvinism, finding the wrong kind of fame as the newly anointed sexist tournament director. More likely, he is merely an oblivious representative of his demographic. A demographic of people who silently believe women shouldn't be paid equally in sport until they can prove they are faster, stronger, or higher than their male counterparts.

The misogynistic nature of his "women ride the coattails of the men" and should "get down on their knees" to thank Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – a comment to which Serena Williams perfectly responded – Moore's comments raised the age-old, ongoing debate of whether female tennis players should be paid the same as their male counterparts.

Equal pay, unequally applied

Before we start a labour discussion on the difference between the men playing five sets and the women playing three sets, or critiquing the difference in the speed of the men's game versus the women's game, let's remember that men and women are only paid equally at Grand Slams and a select few dual-gender tournaments.

It isn't about the women's game as compared to the men's game. Nor is it about the hours spent by each gender on the court. It is about two organizations joining resources, including broadcast rights, tickets sales and sponsorship assets to generate a larger communication footprint.

It is the exclusivity and power of combining the ATP and the WTA that makes tennis unique. It is what raises the value of the property exponentially and gives tennis a platform unlike any other sport.

Generations of female tennis athletes have fought hard to ensure that exponential growth is attributed equally to both its female and male athletes. To ensure a female champion is valued equally to a male champion.

Outside of the Grand Slams, the handful of other dual-gender tournaments – like Indian Wells, formerly run by Moore, and the Rogers Cup in Canada – are run by the gender separate tennis bodies. The ATP and the WTA separately collaborate with the tournament on the prize purses. Some are equal, others are not. They are separate companies with separate bottom lines and profits margins.

Is there less revenue generated by the WTA than the ATP? Yes.

Is it reflected in the prize money outside of the Grand Slams? Generally, yes.

Are the Grand Slams different? Absolutely.

Best in the world, regardless of gender

For anyone that has been to a Grand Slam tennis event, it celebrates the sport of tennis. It showcases the big names of the day, whether those names are Andre Agassi and Roger Federer, or Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Serena Williams. The uniqueness in tennis that elevates a Grand Slam is the fact all the sport's biggest stars are together in one location. That a grounds ticket purchase allows a spectator to see the very best in the world – women or men.

The popularity of the sport within genders has always shifted with the names sitting atop of the rankings. Yet I'd argue a more compelling economic analysis would be the popularity and revenue opportunities by nationality. I'd put a hefty wager that the TV ratings in the U.K. during Wimbledon are higher for men and therefore men's tennis would be more lucrative.

Conversely, TV ratings for the women higher in China during Li Na's championship run at the Australian Open.

Instead of fighting for more from the same purse and disputing the value of the women's game in comparison to the men's game, competitors like Novak Djokovic would be far better served at embracing the value of the collective game and instead fight together for a larger purse in the growth of a thriving global game.

About the Author

Deidra Dionne is Director, Business Affairs at Rogers Media. Her unique outlook on the business of sport stems from her experience as a two-time Olympian and Olympic medallist in freestyle skiing aerials, and from her education and experience as a lawyer in the sport and entertainment industry.


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