Jowell slams Wimbledon’s unequal prize money

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell has today weighed in to the row over prize fees at Wimbledon, expressing “deep concern” that women still receive less than men.

When the tennis championships kick off next Monday, the male players will be aiming for a top prize of £655,000, but the winning female player will only get £625,000.

Last month, the organisers of the French Open announced for the first time that their champions would be rewarded equally, with a prize of £655,000, leaving Wimbledon the only major competition to differentiate between men and women.

And today Ms Jowell has written to the chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which organises the event, asking him to address the problem.

“I am deeply concerned at the ongoing disparity between the money paid to male and female players,” she wrote to Tim Phillips.

“Women’s tennis has made giant strides in recent years, becoming both highly competitive and extremely entertaining. Couple with that, the media attention and levels of global sponsorship are now on a par with the men’s game.”

Earlier this year, WTA tour chief executive Larry Scott said it was “morally indefensible” for women in a Grand Slam competition to receive less prize money than their male colleagues, and accused Wimbledon of taking a “Victorian-era view” on the subject.

Three-times Wimbledon winner Venus Williams has also criticised the All England club in the past, saying: “This is not just about women’s tennis but about women all over the world.”

Mr Phillips has previously insisted that because of the arduous nature of the five-set men’s games, most male players only compete in the singles. By contrast, female singles players only play three sets, meaning many also compete in doubles and mixed doubles.

As a result, he says they often end up doing much better financially from the tournament than men.

However, in her letter today, Ms Jowell says: “I know your position on this but in my view it is anomalous that women receive less prize money than men and this fact is tarnishing the image of the championship.”

She adds: “I would like to join the chorus of voices across tennis urging you to consign this inequality to the past and bring your prize structure in line with the rest of world tennis.”

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Don Foster welcomed Ms Jowell’s intervention, saying: “The current pay gap places the women’s game on the sideline and the men’s game on centre-court.

“The Lawn Tennis Association have an opportunity to raise their game and give women tennis players the fair break they deserve.”