Money Matters

The women have been demanding equal pay at Wimbledon and Roland Garros for years. Why can't they get it?

IT'S no secret that the French Open and Wimbledon pay the women less than the men. In Paris, the women's singles prize money is 93 per cent of the men's, and at Wimbledon it's 86 per cent as much. Why not just offer equal compensation like the Australian and U.S. Opens? "One approach is philosophical and says women should have the same pay," says Stephane Simian, sports director for Roland Garros. "The other, which we take, is more economic."

Both European majors cite spectator surveys that show the men's game is more popular. And the men are a bigger hit on TV in France and England. In four of the last six years, French TV ratings for the men's final have been 13 to 25 per cent higher than the women's showdown. The exceptions occurred in 2000, when France's Mary Pierce was in the final (outdrawing the men by 27 per cent) and last year, when the rating for the all-Williams final was a tenth of a percentage point less than the Albert Costa-Juan Carlos Ferrero final.

"I do think we're being fair," says Tim Phillips, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Aside from the majors in Australia and the U.S., "there are no other tournaments with equal prize money."

But officials at the U.S. Open, which was the first tournament to offer equal pay, in 1973, say a Grand Slam is selling the men and women as a package deal that shouldn't be economically divided between the sexes.

"The heroes of tennis are equally men and women," says Arlen Kantarian, USTA chief executive for professional tennis. "You line up Connors and Evert, King and Ashe, Hewitt and Capriati, and you see the impact is equal." — Joel Drucker