The women’s professional tennis tour took another step on Tuesday to close the gender pay gap, with players and tournament officials pledging to bring prize money on par with men’s at the most important tournaments, but the move has not come to fruition. 10 years will not be complete. .
The move comes after months of negotiations within the WTA Tour, including with tournament organizers, as well as years of complaints from players and the fact that, even in tournaments for decades, female professionals pay a fraction of what they pay men. It was realized after the withdrawal by the tournament officials who paid the women’s professional. There he plays in a three-set winning format.
In Rome in May, the men competed for $8.5 million and the women for $3.9 million. At the Western & Southern Open, the main tune-up of the US Open, the men competed for $6.28 million and the women for $2.53 million. At the National Bank Open in Canada last year, the men were offered $5.9 million, compared to $2.53 million for the women.
“This is making more and more players uncomfortable,” said Jessica Pegula, world number four and member of the WTA Players Council. She said, “Equal pay started at Slam tournaments, but I think a lot of people thought it meant all tournaments.”
Since 2007, men and women have received equal prize money at every Grand Slam tournament. As part of this agreement, the organizers of his next two-tier tournament, the 1000-level tournament, the largest tournament outside of a Grand Slam, and he promised fair payouts for the 500-level tournament as well. I’m here.
All events with both men’s and women’s participation at these two levels will pay the same prize money as the ATP, the men’s tour, from 2027. By 2033, all events at these two levels will pay the same prize money.
Tour executives and tournament officials say a phased-in approach is essential to generate additional income to pay for pay increases, but it has not been embraced by all players.
“I don’t understand why it’s not equal now,” said Paula Vadoza of Spain, who is ranked number two in the world last month.
Another player’s council member, Sloane Stephens, said while he understands the impatience of players who don’t want the benefits to apply only after retirement, there are a number of existing contracts that prevent an immediate transition. said.
“It may not be the fastest way, but it will get you there,” she said. “If I wasn’t on the city council, it would have been difficult to understand. This process takes time.”
WTA Tour chief executive Stephen Simon said in an interview this spring that the market needs this period to catch up with player sentiment as the tour expands its marketing and renegotiates existing media deals. rice field. Tournament organizers can also take advantage of new rules that effectively require player participation in the largest tournaments.
Tournament organizers have long used the lack of mandatory attendance requirements and slight differences in the number of ranking points players receive as excuses for not offering equal pay. Also, all tournaments for men and women now offer the same ranking points for both, leveling the competition in all respects and reducing confusion for fans.
But while pay parity agreements offer the ultimate solution to old problems in tennis, and in all sports, they are no panacea. With Wimbledon scheduled to start on Monday, women’s tennis continues to struggle with challenges.
Most recently, the tour has yet to announce the location of its season-ending Tour Finals in November. The issue was supposed to have been resolved earlier this year when the tour announced it would lift its 18-month suspension in China over the treatment of former player Peng Shuai in China. Shuai accused a government official of sexual assault in a social media post in 2021, after which her tour officials lost contact with her.
Simon said the boycott proved ineffective. But when the tour announced its fall calendar earlier this month, it didn’t reveal where the final would be held, although it included several tournaments in China. Tour officials have said they intend to host an event there, but negotiations continue with China over the details of an existing 10-year deal that guarantees about $150 million in prize money.
There is also the larger question of whether the WTA Tour can be further integrated with the men’s tour, which experts say is essential to unlocking the full potential of professional tennis. And looming over all this is what role, if any, Saudi Arabia can play in the sport.
Saudi Arabia, where the LIV Golf Circuit recently agreed to merge golf with the PGA Tour, already hosts a lucrative men’s exhibition event but has so far faced accusations and lawsuits associated with its aggressive foray into tennis. It shows a tendency to expand investment in tennis without golf.
Saudi Arabia is a strong candidate to host the ATP Next Generation Finals, according to people familiar with the bidding process. The tournament is an end-of-season, 21-and-only tournament held in Milan since its inception in 2017. Proposals for the contest, starting later this year, also include plans to launch a similar event for women.
The WTA has yet to commit to getting involved in it or hosting a tournament in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, which only recently won the right for women to drive, has a terrible human rights record, including the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Simon visited Saudi Arabia. He traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year to meet with Saudi government officials, but it is unclear whether the WTA’s plans for further integration with the ATP will include a new tournament in Saudi Arabia.
Closing the pay gap is the first step for now, but some players don’t understand the slow pace of change.
“I don’t know why we have to wait,” Tunisian No. 6-ranked Ons Jabur said recently.
In response, Simon pointed to a deal the Tour struck with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which bought 20 percent of the WTA’s commercial subsidiary earlier this year for $150 million. Most of the investment will be used to ramp up sales and marketing efforts at a time when many of the company’s players are still unknown to casual sports fans.
That may require some effort on the part of tournaments beyond just giving women more money.
“We have to build these personalities,” Simon said.
Women in tennis have also spoken out in recent months about the different treatment they receive. At the French Open, organizers put men’s matches in the featured prime-time slot on nine of the ten nights.
Mixed tournaments almost always end with the men’s final on the final Sunday, with an implied peak, followed by the women’s final the day before. At the Italian Open in May, Jelena Ryvakina and Angelina Karinina took to the court at 11pm local time in a nearly empty stadium after rain, but the men’s semi-final was delayed by several hours.
After Tuesday’s announcement, the amounts will be at least equal in the end.
“It’s time for a change,” Simon said. “The road is already there.”