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Tuesday, June 23, 1998 Published at 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK

Ladies win less at Wimbledon

Wimbledon prize money from 1968-1998

This year the prize money at Wimbledon will total over 7m an increase of 5% over last year. It is the largest amount any of the four Grand Slam championships has ever offered.

Every competitor gets some financial reward - even if they lose early on in the championships. But big money goes to the Men's Singles Champion who will this year be awarded 435,000 - 20,000 more than last year. The Ladies' Singles Champion will receive 391,500 - around 10% less than her male counterpart.

'Box office appeal'

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Women players have always been paid less prize money than men at Wimbledon. The All England Tennis Club says this is because men's tennis is more popular and women just "don't have box office appeal."

"More people come to watch the men's tennis than the women's," said spokeswoman Charlotte Fuller. She said that the club had yearly surveys that proved it. Last year, 71% of the Wimbledon spectators in the survey said that they liked the men's singles the best.

But the Women's Tennis Association, a kind of union for tennis professionals, is pushing for full parity of payment for women players. Joe Favorito, head of communications for the WTA rejected Wimbledon's excuse for paying less money to women.

"If they have any surveys we've never seen them," he said. "Women's tennis has been getting tremendous media exposure and increased TV ratings. We feel that the men's game is in a little bit of a lull at the moment and women's is on the rise."

Mr Favorito said that the WTA did not want to get into a "battle" over prize money. He predicted that equal pay would happen "eventually". But currently the only major competition to offer women players equal money is the US Open.

The club's decision is final

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The amount of prize money offered by Wimbledon is decided each year by the All England Tennis Club Committee. The two singles championships are awarded the most and then the men's, women's and mixed doubles teams all get progressively less prize money, which each pair shares.

The chairman of the club John Curry explained: "One of our chief concerns is to offer a level of prize money wholly in keeping with the status of the event and recognising the talents and box office appeal of the world's leading players.

"At the same time we seek to reward everyone who competes in the championship whether the stars of today, tomorrow or yesterday."

Before money mattered

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The prizes at Wimbledon have not always been so large. In fact during the first Lawn Tennis Championship at Wimbledon, in 1877, the amateur competitors battled it out for a Gold Prize worth 12 guineas and a Silver Prize for the runner-up worth 7 guineas. There were also to be "smaller prizes if a sufficient number of people enter".

Even by 1967, the time of the very last amateur Wimbledon, the money had not become any more enticing.

The winner of the men's singles became the holder of two separate challenge cups and was also given silver miniature replicas of them. He was also awarded another called the Renshaw cup - but no money. The runner up did a little better in cash terms and got 30. The women's champion also got 30 and a replica of the challenge trophy.

But those days of playing simply for the love of the sport and little reward have long gone. In 1968 the championships became "open" to all categories of player, both amateurs and professionals. The men's singles prize leapt to 2,000 and the women's to 750. The prize money has been rising ever since.

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