The Wimbledon Championships have announced that the prize money for both the men’s and women’s brackets will be equal. The checks will be the same all the way down the line. That means that 3 out of the 4 tennis Grand Slam events have eliminated any disparity in prizes. The French Open agreed to pay the men’ and women’s champion the same but all other places maintain the disparity.
This is interesting to think about because the argument against equal payments was fairly straight forward. Men’s sports generate more revenue thus allowing for greater prize money. More people will come to a golf course and watch TV if Tiger Woods is playing vs. Annika Sorenstam. Higher gate receipts plus higher TV ratings equals higher prize money.
Let’s look at it this way. That argument works if you remove gender. More people watch a run of the mill PGA tournament then the Tour of California. Therefore, the prize money disparity between the two sports.
Let’s look at cycling. At the local Tour of Somerville, I see the crowds build during the day and peak for the Men’s race. The women’s race draws 70 – 75% of the fans. Of course, there is no TV. The Pro race in Philadelphia actually have the men and women competing at the same time. The TV only follows the men however. What does that mean to women’s cycling?
She Cycles by the Seashore has put some thought into this already. I don’t think the US cycling circuit is financially ready to up the prize money for women given the current revenue level. So I ask, how can we raise the tide to lift all boats? My daughter loves the women’s race and I think this is a great learning experience. She sees unselfish teamwork, sacrifice, hard work as great life examples.
So, how do we level the playing field? That’s a good question. I don’t have the answer right now other than to kick in some prime money for the women’s race in Somerville this year. This way my daughter sees some reward for hard work and sacrifice.
Think of it this way, cycling is the only major sport where you do not have to pay to attend. There is no stadium, no tickets. While that makes cycling a great deal, no attendance money can go to the riders. If I buy a pretzel, that money goes to the concession. If I buy a t-shirt, that money goes to the race organizer.
What if we create a fan’s prime? Put in what you think would be a fair “ticket” price. That money becomes a prime equally split across all the races for the day. Just a few bucks per person would add up to a decent amount.