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Rediff.com  » Sports » Billie Jean King pleads with Wimbledon for equal money

Billie Jean King pleads with Wimbledon for equal money

April 21, 2006 12:27 IST

Tennis champion and pioneer Billie Jean King pleaded on Thursday for Wimbledon officials to offer equal prize money for men and women.

"It's just the right thing to do in the 21st century," King said. "The people in power can do whatever they want. But I would hope they would find it in their hearts and minds."

The All England Club has traditionally offered men more prize money than women for the Wimbledon championships which is the last of the Grand Slam tournaments to hold out.

Last year, women's winner Venus Williams earned about 30,000 pounds ($53,000) less than men's champion Roger Federer.

King, a six-times Wimbledon champion, told Reuters in a telephone interview that women were often a bigger draw than the men for fans in parts of the world.

"Let's get on with it and be a team," she said. "Tennis is one of the few sports where the men and women are really high profile. Women's tennis is the leader in women's sports.

"I just think it's a no-brainer."

Wimbledon officials will announce their prize money for the 2006 championships next week but have given no indication that the disparity will change.

King, a key figure in establishing the women's tennis tour in the 1970s, discounted the argument that men got paid more because they play best-of-five sets while the women play best-of-three.

"We have always been willing to do that," she said. "That is their decision not to let us play three out of five sets. And how about everybody playing two out of three? That would really be helpful."

ELTON JOHN

But, King said, the number of sets should not determine the amount of prize money.

"Entertainers don't get paid by the hour," she said. "They get paid, period. If Elton John does a concert, it could last one hour or fours hours, it's a done deal."

Larry Scott, chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Tour, said it was a "convenient argument" to base the pay on the number of sets but it was "completely irrelevant in the entertainment business".

"The last time I checked, from the Round of 16, quarter-finals on, women's matches are sold out just as the men's matches are sold out," he told Reuters.

"Some years the women's TV ratings will be higher, some year's the men's will be higher."

Scott said Wimbledon made 25 million pounds last year and the gap in prize money between the sexes was just $450,000 "so obviously it's a social and political statement being made."

Wimbledon officials could not be reached for comment.

King, 62, said she was tired of fighting the same issue year after year.

"But we're not going to let up," she said. "We're just asking to do the right thing. Before I die I just want to see every major (tournament) have equal prize money."

Source:
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