Serving up more economic empowerment
- Styli Charalambous
- 26 Jun 2011 06:56 (South Africa)
I absolutely love tennis. I love the one-on-one duels played out on diverse surfaces, with no two courts ever playing the same and no outcome ever guaranteed. The rivalries that at times became bigger than the individual themselves is another part of the appeal of the game. Growing up, I can still vividly remember the riveting battles that unfolded on either side of the net. Edberg vs Becker, Agassi vs Sampras, Wayne Ferreira vs himself. Even the European mercenaries like Thomas Muster, who lay in wait for the poor Americans each clay-court season, were a joy to watch.
My memories of women’s tennis, on the other hand, are mostly dominated by the image of the greatest set of legs to grace women’s sport - Steffi Graf - and the sweat-drenched top of Gabriella Sabatini, as she was once again expedited from the lawns of SW19. Sure, women’s tennis had great rivalries and great players, like Navratilova vs Evert, but let’s face it, if the major tournaments didn’t have both sexes competing during the same tournament, the number of eyeballs following women’s tennis would be a fraction of what they are now.
The irony of women’s tennis is that as the standard of play and the entertaining rivalries have faded, the level of compensation has increased.
In 2007 the All England Club succumbed to women’s lib pressure and agreed to award the winner of the ladies tournament prize money of £1.1 million, equal to that of the gentlemen’s winner. An utterly nonsensical notion based mostly on the misguided idea that we could apply workplace equality theory to the world of tennis.
You see, while the theory has merit in the workplace where the result of one’s labour, of similar quality, can be achieved by either sex, the theory simply cannot transfer to the tennis court. From a gender point of view, it doesn’t really matter who drafted a legal document or created a fancy spreadsheet with macros and pivot tables. But out on the court, the quality of the play generated by men and women varies significantly.
Feministas will argue that both the men’s champion and the women’s champion have achieved the same result in beating the rest of the competitive field of entrants. And, as such, should be remunerated accordingly. But professional sport is no longer just about competitions with an eventual winner. Sport has evolved and the ultimate objective is to now create an entertainment product that TV stations and merchandisers around the world can sell to advertisers and consumers. And therein lies the basis of my argument. Economics 101. The law of supply and demand.
This is why our bruised and battered rugby players, who put their bodies through more abuse than any other sport, simply won’t earn as much as their football counterparts. The facts remain that more people watch football across the globe, which in turn allows TV stations to charge more for advertising, which means footballers can justify higher wages. Even if those exorbitant wages may in time prove to be unsustainable, footballers will continue to earn more than rugby players for as long as the football audience exceeds that of rugby.
So that principle should apply to ladies tennis, but clearly does not. The quality of the entertainment of women’s tennis simply does not justify the same reward as that of the men’s game. The true economic value of the entertainment is to be found in the commercial side of the game, where the corporate vultures circle seeking famous faces and bodies, upon which to plaster their logos. It’s an indictment on the quality of the women’s game that the highest paid female tennis player is remunerated according to her good looks rather than her achievements.
Forbes magazine points out Maria Sharapova, currently 6th in the world on the WTA rankings, earned $24 million in 2010, eclipsing every other female tennis player (and even Rafael Nadal). This was largely due to a seven-year endorsement deal, signed soon after her 2004 Wimbledon triumph.
Anna Kournikova, the butt of many poker-hand jokes, (looks good, but wins nothing) for a long time epitomised what was wrong with women’s tennis. In her case, her short lived, yet highly profitable tennis career, was packed up as she rode off into the sunset on Enrique Iglesias’ chopper.
What this tells us is that some blonde hair and a set of long legs will get you further in the world of tennis than actual talent. Conversely, the men’s game, and its endorsers, will always reward the best talent with the most compensation.
A further example served up by the state of the women’s game is that three recent WTA number 1 ranked players had yet to even win a Grand Slam.
Tennis is the only sport in which prize money at the majors is the same for ladies as it is for men. And where some might call this progress, I call this economic empowerment of the mediocre.
Last year’s women’s British open golf winner took home less than a third of the $1.6 million purse that Louis Oosthuisen received for winning the men’s equivalent tournament.
Good female basketball players in the USA command princely earnings of several hundred thousand dollars, while their male counterparts are well into the millions.
It just doesn’t make sense that female tennis players are paid the same, not from an audience-size point of view nor from a quality-of-entertainment point of view.
If we use the arguments feministas bandy about to get their ladies tennis players equal pay, does that mean officials are now discriminating against the doubles team winners? Together, they only receive a quarter of their single’s counterparts. DM
- Book review: The Grand Scam by Rob Rose – how the Tannenbaums and Madoffs get away with it
- Analysis: The Kallis Conundrum
- Read the writing on the paywall
- Balancing the budget, NDP-style
- Harnessing the power: ANC in action
- Operation Mangaung 2012: chaos reigns supreme
- Survivor: Media edition
- South Africa's bittersweet Olympics
- Ernie Els recaptures form - and the Claret jug
- The 50 Shades of Victoria's Secret
- Prohibiting prohibition
- A brief history of rogue bankers
- Boks v England: Dour end to series win
- Meyer and Boks pass first test hurdle - just
- Speartackled: The real story
- First Thing with Styli Charalambous: UN Security Council condemns Syria attack
- My coming-out story
- Dear Heyneke Meyer, April Fools' is no more
- Masters: Bubba breaks South African hearts
- Will the gays and women please rise?
- Don't touch me on my sponsor
- 25 Billion reasons why Apple isn't going away anytime soon
- The Entrepreneur Chronicles: Q&A with Ronnie Apteker
- Entrepreneur chronicles: Snapbill
- The Entrepreneur Chronicles: Dave Blakey & Snapt
- Final whistle blows for Capello
- ANC's mining solutions: a depressing exercise
- Analysis: Facebook's $100-billion reality
- Djokovic triumphs in clash of the titans
- Rugby: Letting the tiger out the bag
- The changing face of cricket
- Australian Open preview: Clash of the Titans
- 2011 - The sporting year that wasn't
- Bridging the funding divide
- Up yours! New Zealand style
- Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best Springbok coach of all?
- What if Zuckerberg came from Sandton?
- Yippee - the Outsurance pointsmen are gone
- Six Nations is Bryce-less
- Kings of Leon: anything but a royal performance
- SA Tennis: no game, no set, no match
- Why the orchids of RWC 2011 reek of onions - An overview
- A generation later, All Blacks are World Champions again
- World Cup farce preview
- End of the Federer era? Don't bet on it
- All Blacks bundle Australia out of RWC
- Sacrebleu! as France stumble into World Cup final
- Where to now, Bokke?
- Australia break South African hearts
- Wales polish off Ireland in Wellington
- Quarterfinal crunch time at RWC
- Weekend of wonder at Rugby World Cup
- Boks bruise their way to win over Samoa
- All Blacks boss France off Auckland's Eden Park
- Bok selections: good headaches to have
- Jesus, the USA and gay rights
- Irish make mockery of the formbook and Australia
- Boks blow Fijians away in Wellington
- Boks scrape through in Wellington thriller
- The time has come: crouch, touch, pause... Engage!
- 'I got World Cup fever; she got World Cup fever!'
- Sonny Bill Williams and Rugby Union: End of a brief but dazzling affair?
- Wallabies beat All Blacks in Brisbane bruiser
- A team of 30, backed by a team of millions
- Hope restored as Boks put All Blacks to bed
- Smith's exit could be Boks' Achilles Heel
- US Open - last chance saloon for the Fed express
- John Smit drops to Bok bench for All Blacks encounter
- Moment of truth awaits the Boks in Durban
- The Global Financial Crisis - a bedtime story
- Blackout at Eden Park, as All Blacks demolish Wallabies
- Tri-Nations decider - a Pacific skirt-lifting affair
- Why I'm betting on the Boks to bring home the Rugby World Cup
- All Blacks blow Boks off Wellington's Westpac Park
- Tri-Nations preview: Winds of Wellington will blow Boks away
- Wallaby display dazzles Bok B-Team
- Tri-Nations: Short-term pain for World Cup gain
- Super Rugby fairytale Crusaders ending ruined by Red devils
- Brisbane promises breathtaking rugby as Reds face off to Crusaders
- Crusaders storm into Super 15 Final
- Serving up more economic empowerment
- LinkedIn: Taking the office Xmas party public
- Analysis: 100 billion reasons for Zuckerberg to smile
- U2 in Johannesburg - the real greatest show on earth
- Tis the season to be jolly, so hush about the church's lolly
- Beware the state of Nanny McUnfree
- Is the Internet is making us stoopid?
- Time to face reality about steroids?
- Cooler than English?
- In defence of Tiger