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Djokovic is right about equal pay

Ben Kew

Topics Politics

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Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic’s bravery apparently extends beyond his titanic performances on court. This week he crashed into a sexism row after defending the comments of Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore, who claimed that women’s tennis ‘rides on the coat-tails’ of men’s.

When asked what he thought about equal pay, Djokovic said he ‘applauded’ women players for fighting for what they deserved, before adding that the men ‘should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators’. His comments sparked outrage online, and he has since apologised.

Though the sight of a multimillionaire sportsman complaining about pay might get some people’s backs up, he does have a point. The brutal truth is that the men’s game is faster, harder and more popular than the women’s. It attracts more spectators, not least because the longer and higher-quality matches represent better value for money. The stats back this up: last year’s men’s Wimbledon final drew a peak audience of 9.2million viewers, compared with 4.3million for the women’s.

Djokovic and his counterparts on the men’s tour also significantly outperform women in terms of bringing revenue streams into the game. Therefore, it’s hard not to see equal pay as a somewhat tokenistic gesture. Women don’t contribute as much to the prize pot, yet, in certain equal-pay tournaments, they receive a disproportionate amount of the prize money. This isn’t equal treatment — it’s double standards.

Sport is different to most other professions in that men and women cannot, on the whole, compete on a level playing field. Men’s physical performance surpasses that of women in terms of speed, power and stamina. And the fans enjoy watching sport played at the highest level. This is not to smear the women’s game. At its best, women’s tennis can be thoroughly captivating. But the fact remains that it is just not as popular.

Many have said that Djokovic was ‘unwise’ to get involved in such a contentious debate. Perhaps he was. But that’s only because people seem to be averting the truth. Sport is about competition. And, like it or not, the men are winning.

Ben Kew is a writer and a student at the University of Bristol.

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Topics Politics

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