Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Riled By Wimbledon And The Real March Madness


Women Get Paid:
I’m really riled up about this Wimbledon pay debate. As some of you might have heard, Wimbledon decided on Thursday to announce that -- for the first time ever -- it was awarding the same amount of prize money to the women and men. The French Open did this for the first time last year, although -- unlike Wimbledon -- it’s only for the champions and not throughout the rest of the draw.

I think the women should earn as much as the men. And this has nothing to do with political correctness. This has everything to do with what they deserve. I’m going to start with ratings. It’s impossible to know, when people buy their tickets for the U.S. Open -- if they’re motivated by Sharapova or Federer -- but ratings are facts. It tells us who was watched more. I’m just wondering why, in every single article I’ve read about the pay debate, that not one single article has mentioned that the women’s Wimbledon final has outrated the men’s final for five of the last six years.

Take a look:

             Women’s    Men’s
    2006      2.0         2.5
    2005      3.4         2.1
    2004      3.1         2.8
    2003      2.9         2.2
    2002      3.4         2.4
    2001      3.0         2.5

Source: Nielsen Media Research

That’s Wimbledon folks. The women’s final has outrated the men’s final of the Australian Open for five out of the last six years as well. The U.S. Open seems to be the big exception. The women’s final hasn’t beaten the men’s final in ratings once in the past five years. Nonetheless, we’re not talking about the women outrating the men in any other sport.

Let’s now go on to the other points. One rightly points out then men in the grand slams play three of five sets and the women play two of three sets. The men are doing more work and playing longer hours, thus they deserve more pay. Whoever is coming up with that argument should take a day off and look around. Just because you work longer doesn’t mean you deserve to get paid more. Then there’s argument put forth by men’s tennis player Tommy Haas. He says that the men’s game has more depth. Doesn’t matter Tommy. It ultimately comes down to whether sponsors and fans find your game more appealing.

If you look at the endorsement world, at the very top, Roger Federer can’t even get Nike to make an ad with him (they still haven’t), but Maria Sharapova seems to be the brand’s No. 1 tennis priority. What does that say?

As far as the game itself, and this is my personal opinion, the men’s game isn’t as exciting as it used to be. I’d like to see a chart of the average number of rallies in a point from the 1970s to today. The power serve has seemingly made every point over in less than 15 seconds. The women have power too, but it seems like more of a strategy game than the men. I’d pay a lot of money for some sports marketer to help me watch the men game by having an entire tournament with the top players in the world playing with wood rackets.

Here’s The Real Madness:
Those who read this blog regularly know how much I respect the folks at Challenger, Gray & Christmas for their sports loss of productivity “studies.” I got their latest bit this morning -- March Madness could cost employers more than $1.2 billion over the course of the 19-day event that begins March 15. Thanks to the games being online, the global outplacement consultancy firm says that the first two days could cost up to $260 million in wages paid to unproductive workers. Now usually I bash them because I always say that their studies suggest that every minute an employee works is a productive minute, which is not even close to the truth. I also don’t like how they’ve suggested in the past that this is a bad thing -- it’s not, March Madness engenders a camaraderie in the office that is priceless. But I must say, these folks must have heard me. They report that only six percent of workplaces are doing something to stunt their employees from watching games online and that there is actually some value in this type of lost productivity. Good for them. Now stop releasing these studies because it’s impossible to calculate this number. I’d venture to say that all the time talking and watching games -- when you consider how employees relate to each other, how they talk about each other’s brackets, etc. -- might actually lead to a positive cash flow for companies across the country.

Questions?  Comments?