Equal rights for equal work

Equal prize-money at Wimbledon for the ladies … well, surely, they
need to work as hard as the men?

When talking to people about the value of work, I often use the phrase “You
get what you pay for”. I believe this is relevant to a wide range of situations,
and clients need to realise that if you pay for a service, then paying a higher
fee – while not necassarily guaranteeing a level of quality – certainly
encourages it.

You can turn that phrase on it’s head, though. We could change it to “You’re
paid for what you work”. In Wimbledon fortnight, of which I am a big fan, this
is particularly relevant this year. Wimbledon, that bastion of English
snobbishness and reluctance to change, has brought in three big changes this
year. The first, Hawk-eye, allows players to access the same technology that the
broadcasters use to identify whether a ball was “in” or “out”. This is a
fundamental change to how the games are judged. The second change is the
disappearance of a roof on the famous centre court, the roof being rebuilt ready
for next years championships and for a retracting roof in 2009.

The third change is the prize money given to the players. This year, in
keeping with other grand slams, Wimbledon have finally acquiesced to the growing
demans of female players that their prize money be the same as the mens. The
2007 prize money stands at £700,00 for both men and women. But do the women
truly deserve the same prize?

I’m all for equal rights, but these equal rights need to be tempered against
realism. Basic Wimbledon mens matches are first to 3 sets, typically lasting a
full five sets. Fans of Tim Henman often feel they should get some of the money,
as it can often be an emotionally demanding commitment to follow a five-setter!
A five setter match often lasts 3 or 4 hours of physically demanding
play. Tennis requires players to be at the peak of fitness. The women’s game,
however, is best of 3, so why should they get the same money?

If we look at the modern style of player, particularly this years Ladies
singles, we see that a typical match with one of the top-flight players lasts
not much longer than an hour. Maria Sharapova and Justin Henin are reknowned for their aggressive style that tries to get hold of a match by the neck early on,
in order to gain a quick hold and subsequent finish. When up against a
lower-ranked player, this results in matches that last between an hour and an
hour 20 minutes. While I really enjoy watching both these players, is this value
for money?

Maria Sharapova’s match against Bremond yesterday lasted barely 1 hour 10
minutes, ending 6-0 6-3. Justin Henin’s win against Dushevina on Day 3 lasted
just an hour. While the womens game is a great watch at the moment, when you can get a £700,000 pay-cheque for quick matches like these, it makes one wonder
whether Wimbledon has lost it’s senses.

I honestly do not believe the ladies should be required to play for best of 3
sets, so I don’t think the solution is anything other than paying the girls a
representative prize according to their work. Now the decision has been made,
however, I think it might be too late.

More information on the prize money can be found at Wimbledon’s Web Site.