WTA tour CEO Steve Simon calls for equal pay expansion

by: Kamakshi Tandon | May 19, 2016

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"The issue of equal [pay] goes way beyond one element of broadcast agreements," he said. (AP)

WTA CEO Steve Simon is calling for more recognition and expansion of equal prize money following a recent revival of the debate.

"With the leadership of the Grand Slams and the main mandatory-combined events, which have led the way, I think tennis has addressed it very well," he told the WTA website. "…It's a conversation that's been done; the agreements are in place for it, and I think we should be embracing it as opposed to talking about it."

Senior-level tournament officials, including Raymond Moore—the now-former tournament director of Indian Wells—and Ion Tiriac, the owner of the Madrid Open, have questioned the financial basis of keeping equal prize money at such combined events, saying the men's side provides more financial value than the women's side.

Tiriac pointed specifically to higher TV rights earnings from the ATP as a source of imbalance between the two tours.

But Simon argued that that is only one position of difference. 

"The TV revenues, broadcast revenues from the ATP side, are higher than what we receive from the WTA side right now," he acknowledged, adding that a new broadcast agreement signed by the WTA would narrow the figures. "...But the issue of equal [pay] goes way beyond one element of broadcast agreements. The WTA and the ATP at these combined events are both contributing to that brand and that product.

"The Mutua Madrid Open, as an example, is promoted as a combined WTA/ATP event. They are driving all of the values that they're realizing through that event, ticket sales, hospitality sales, all of the different things."

The WTA tour is also working on increasing prize money at smaller events, Simon added, where the level of compensation is generally lower compared to comparable events on the men's tour. The goal is to increase it to "where our players won't be dependent on the four Slams to make their profit, and that they can make their living, earn their points, as a WTA player.

He did indicate, however, that that could mean the WTA would have to subsidize some International-level events.

"I think that's something that we have to look at that would allow us to grow those events and build them, and build the economic platform, which I'm not sure—it's a very difficult one for them to be successful down there right now," he said.

Simon, who was appointed CEO in 2015, was previously the tournament director of Indian Wells.

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