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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
King wants equal pay at Wimbledon
Bille Jean King
King won 37 Grand Slam titles
Six-time Wimbledon champion Billie Jean King has pleaded with officials at the All England Club to offer equal prize money for men and women.

Wimbledon is now the only Grand Slam not to offer equal prize money after French Open organisers opted to change their policy for this year's event.

"It's just the right thing to do in the 21st century," King said.

"Tennis is one of the few sports where the men and women are really high profile. 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.

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

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

Obviously it's a social and political statement being made
WTA chief Larry Scott

"That is their decision not to let us play three out of five sets," said King.

"And how about everybody playing two out of three? That would really be helpful.

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

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

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 said.

"Some years the women's TV ratings will be higher, some year's the men's will be higher. Obviously it's a social and political statement being made."

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