Wimbledon rejects case for parity in prize-money

John Roberts
Wednesday 30 April 2003 00:00
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Some of the scenes for Wimbledon, a romantic comedy from the makers of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bridget Jones's Diary, will be filmed at this year's Championships.

While the cameras roll, spectators will get to grips with increased security – left luggage facilities will be located outside the grounds and picnics cannot be brought in hampers – and the marquee names such as Andre Agassi and the Williams sisters will compete for a share of a £9,373,990 prize pot.

The women will be unhappy to have been denied pay parity again – the winner of the singles title will receive £535,000, £40,000 less than the men's champion – and doubles players may feel that the grass is being pulled from under their feet. Although prize-money for the singles tournaments has increased by 9.5 per cent, the rewards in the other events stay the same."

"Overall, the prize-money bill is going up by 6.2 per cent," said Tim Phillips, the All England Club's chairman. "To reflect market forces, we are paying a substantial increase to singles competitors while holding doubles' prize-money at last year's level."

Larry Scott, the new chief executive of the WTA Tour, has emphasised that the quest for equal prize-money remains a priority. Phillips said he expects there will be "an exchange of views" with Scott, but considered the prize-money differential to be fair "in the marketplace".

The All England Club, along with the three other Grand Slam championships, is under pressure from the ATP to donate a slice of their annual profits to help in the development of the men's tour, which has been in financial difficulty since the collapse of the sports marketing company, ISL. Wimbledon's pre-tax surplus is handed to the Lawn Tennis Association, their partners in the championships, for the development of British tennis. Last year's surplus was down to £26m from £30m.

"We understand the ATP do have an agenda," Phillips said, "but we have not met up with Mark Miles [the ATP's chief executive] to discuss the situation. The All England Club launched the Grand Slam Development Fund, and the Grand Slams have invested £22m to propagate the sport. We do contribute to the game internationally, but we are a British event, we are located in London, and the majority of our money is put into the development of the sport here, which I feel is right."

Asked about the LTA's planning, Phillips commented: "They have got a good set of programmes. They have to catch up with lost ground, and they are doing that fast. The way we view our partnership is this: We concentrate on what we do here, and they concentrate on propagating the game."

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