Is Equal Prize Money in Sport Justified?

With the news that 30% of sports pay men more prize money than women, Matt analyses whether calls for equal prize money in sport are justified…

Helen Grant, UK Minister for Sport, has stated that the governing bodies for sports in the UK need to fight for equal prize money to ‘take part in the battle for gender balance and fairness in the 21st century’. However, could the awarding of equal prize money be justified? And does it make any sort of business sense?

The answer for a lot of sports is a very firm no. For football, cycling, golf, cricket and even snooker, equal prize money would not reflect the levels of interest in each side of the sport, or their respective revenues.

Of the top eight most-viewed events at the London 2012 Olympics, six were men’s

It’s an undeniable fact that male sport holds more interest in the modern world. The London 2012 men’s 100m final saw 20 million Britons tune in to watch and of the top eight most-viewed events at the Olympics (excluding the opening and closing ceremonies), six were men’s events. Although athletics is one of the sports to pay equal prize money, it’s hard to argue against the importance of the male side of the sport in gaining revenue.


Football a league apart

Take football for example. The English Premier League paid its 2013 winner, Manchester United, a staggering £24million whereas the winners of the women’s league, Liverpool LFC, received £0.

Okay, so £0 prize money is a bit extreme. But can this gap really be closed?

The Premier League brings in £2.7 billion of revenue to clubs through sponsorship and TV deals and sees an average attendance of over 36,500, with a single-game peak of 75,355 at Old Trafford this season. The average attendance of the Women’s Super League 1 was just 728. You would have to go down to the fifth tier of men’s football to find a league’s average attendance as low as this. The FA wouldn’t pay the winners of the Conference North the same as the winners of the Premier League, so why pay the winners of the WSL the same?

Women tennis players play fewer sets and fewer matches en route to the final and the free time allows them to either rest or compete in the lucrative doubles tournament

The recent uproar poses the question of whether we can possibly go too far in striving for equality, over-compensating for a male-dominated world’s misdemeanours. Wimbledon, for example, has paid equal prize money since 2004 in a highly controversial move. Women tennis players play fewer sets and fewer matches en route to the final and the free time allows them to either rest or compete in the lucrative doubles tournament alongside their endeavours in the singles. Equality, right?

In for the long haul

The rise to prominence of the WSL has been astounding, and no-one can question the power of women in sport and their importance in the sporting world. What would sport be with the Serenas or Jessica Ennis-Hills of the world? The promotion of women’s sport is justified and brilliant for the sporting world. But prize money should not be increased purely on gender alone.

Women’s sport is on the rise in the UK and around the world. The England national football team is about to play Germany in front of a record 33,000 crowd in their first game at Wembley, the WSL has signed TV deals with the BBC and BT Sport and a thrilling final day of the season saw widespread coverage of women’s football for the first time. These kind of improvements can only signal bright days ahead for women’s football and sport as a whole. However, the women’s game has a long way to go to reach the dizzying heights of the Premier League, and the staggering prize money that comes with it.

Matt Smith

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21-year-old Ameri-Czech student of Politics & Economics at the University of Nottingham. Sports Editor @impactmagazine. FFC worshipper. European.

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