Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gilles Simon and Equal Tournament Play

by Savannah

Gilles Simon is now a member of the ATP player council. As a member his comments get more play than they did before.

He's set off a firestorm with his most recent comments on the equal pay situation for the WTA at majors. What did he say?
WIMBLEDON, England — Gilles Simon, a Frenchman seeded 13th and freshly elected to the ATP Player Council, told French reporters on Monday that he was opposed to women receiving equal prize money as men.

“I think that men’s tennis is really ahead of women’s tennis at this stage,” he told the radio station France Info after winning his first-round match. “Once more, the men spent surely twice as much time on court as the women at the French Open. We often talk about salary equality. I don’t think it’s something that works in sport. I think we are the only sport that has parity with the women in terms of prize money. Meanwhile, men’s tennis remains more attractive than women’s tennis at this moment.”

In 2007, Wimbledon became the last of the four Grand Slam tournaments to award equal prize money to the women. The United States Open was the first in 1973.

But the men’s and women’s tours operate independently, and there are still disparities in the prize money that women earn at their own top-tier tour events compared with the men’s top-tier events.

In an interview with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe that appeared on Monday, Simon also said that he was upset that the men’s tour had agreed to make the tournament in Rome a joint event with the women without consulting him and some other men’s players directly.

“The year before, the women, for their final, they had 20 spectators,” he said. “And so, in that case, you save them, but when you want a practice court, there aren’t any left.”

Simon, looking ahead to his term on the ATP Players Council, made other suggestions during the L’Equipe interview that had nothing to do with women’s tennis. He wants to reduce the number of Masters 1000 tournaments that the leading men are required to play from eight out of nine to six out of nine. He also wants to cut the participatory requirements for Masters 500 tournaments.


“Am I going to incur the wrath of feminist organizations? I don’t care,” said Simon, pointing to the fact that women contest matches over best-of-three sets at the Grand Slam tournaments while the men play best-of-five set matches.


Might this rant have to do with the ATP considering raising prize money? Does this have to do with the inferior quality of the WTA product right now? Have I not been saying for a couple of years now that the WTA went for image over substance, promoting the Blonde standard over quality play? Outside of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova who puts butts in seats? Victoria Azarenka?

Marion Bartoli came to the defense of women's tennis saying there are only five or six big draws in men's tennis. That's at least three more than the top draws of women's tennis.

There will be a lot of weeping and gnasing of teeth but nothing, and I mean nothing, Simon said isn't true. Is he a male chauvinist? Maybe. But his job is to reflect the attitudes of his constituency, the ATP players.

As for the Master's 1000 and 500 requirements I defer to the players on that. I'm sure the TD's will oppose any change but I suspect that is an argument that will be played out over the next two years.

1 comment:

Randy Burgess said...

I have multiple problems with Simon's comments.

First, the "men play more sets than women" argument is hogwash. Athletes, like other kinds of entertainers, are NEVER paid by the hour. They're not day laborers. They are paid in relation to their market value.

Second, Simon then argues that in fact, the WTA market value is less than the ATP. He bases this on poor attendance for WTA events, apparently. The problem here is that this is backwards thinking that would put cutting costs ahead of bringing in revenue. You fix no seats at WTA events by improving how the WTA markets and regulates its sport. We've seen major problems with shrieking that the WTA keeps saying it will deal with, and doesn't. We've seen a bad ranking system that put Woz up top to much fan dissatisfaction. The cure is not to declare women's tennis inferior, but for the WTA to get its act together.

And third, the best events in tennis happen to be joint ATP/WTA affairs - e.g. the majors, but also Indian Wells and similar non-major events too. These events have to at least gesture towards prize money parity so as to avoid implying that half the product on display is inferior. This is a fact of marketing life that Simon probably can't grasp.

And fourth, society has moved on. The trend in capitalist/consumer/Western society is towards greater social movement rather than a caste system. We're not about to deny women the vote, and even in the U.S. there is a movement toward gay marriage. There is a big connection between social liberality and economic liberality - again, something that a social conservative like Simon can't grasp.

You want the WTA should improve? Good. But let's not conflate that with some bogus argument about women's tennis being inferior on the face of it to men's. Remember, some of that "exciting" ATP product that Simon talks about can be pretty damn dull at times.