I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The constant whine

So, the noise goes up again. Why can't women tennis players get as much money as men do?

Sure, people should get what the market pays.

The Grand Slams are in a monopsony situation. The players don't have substitute buyers (other tournaments) and the barriers to entry into the Grand Slam circuit are unbelievably high. Currently, it also seems like supply of players is fragmented and inelastic. Hence, theoretically the Grand SLams can offer any price that they want.

However, the Slams are in a fairly competitive product market (competing against many other sports and entertainment options), which will punish a sub-standard product severely. Hence, the demand curve for the best athletes is also pretty inelastic. That is where the challenge to the monopsony power comes in.

This demand side is probably the only point worth discussing in arguments for equal pay (and not the stupid men-work-harder argument). If the Grand Slams discriminate between men and women when the spectator's don't, we will go further away from an optimal situation and we'll see a correction (example, at the margin, women will refuse to sign up for the tournament and viewers will punish the Slams disproportionately). However, if viewers genuinely like men's tennis more, then it is optimal to pay men more.

On that note, I have read at various places that women's attendances and TV ratings are as high as men's, if not higher (another example, here). Is it?

I couldn't find any such evidence. Instead, all reports I found through a google search showed that men's ratings were higher (anywhere between 5 - 30%). Attendance at Men's tour is also higher, though I couldn't find the statistics for comparable tournaments. I wish I had access to this report to sort this out and calculate what the difference in pay should be.
At least from the evidence I have seen till now, a 5% difference seems justifiable.

Update: Pratyush has been collecting reports on this issue.


Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Remember what Richard Krajicek said about women on the ATP circuit?
“I may have exaggerated a bit when I said that 80 per cent of the top 100 women are fat pigs. What I meant to say was 75 per cent of the top 100 women are fat pigs.”
Worth a thought.

Of course, nowadays you have Maria Sharapova and the likes. Yes, they also play tennis, or hadn't you noticed?!


Tuesday, April 25, 2006 10:17:00 PM

Anonymous ramesh said...

may sound politically uncorrect, but they deserve an equal pay after all we can't ogle at the guys all the time

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 11:53:00 PM

Blogger Sinfully Pinstripe said...

Hey dk2. Few observations.

1. It's not a monopsony situation. There are about 100 top-notch tournaments played, and a player plays about 80 matches every year. Thus, the player gets to choose the tournaments he / she plays in. There's only one Federer, and even he cannot play more than say about 20-25 tournaments a year. So a Nalbandian or a Ljubicic gets to choose what they want. Go for glory and only play the top tournaments, or play a few of them and play a few middle rung tournaments (Sunfeast open and the likes) and win decent prize money. Haven't we seen the Samprases of the world dropping the Australian open, and Thomas Muster dropping Wimbledon? And the top money (modelling etc.) do not go down to the middle rung anyway. In no sport. How many products have you seen Gilerto Silva and Nathan Bracken model for, anyway.
2. The main complaint for women's tennis was that the Slams are in a fairly competitive product market did not work so well there, the standards of the bottom end of the top hundred was abysmal once. The top players were hardly stretched in the earlier rounds. But all that seems to have changed now. The top 100 in women's tennis has got more competitive, and as for the men, we all know what FedEx does to the world no 80's.
3. I had googled about the attendence in men's v.s. women's games a long time ago, and in the analysis, there are two fallacies. a) In grand slams, women play best-of-3 sets games, men play best-of-5 games which take longer to finish. The men's game lasts longer. So the chances for a casual observer who has watched 5 minutes of the match, (but gets reported as a hit i.e. an attendee, nonetheless) to have been reported as having watched a men's grand slam match is higher than a women's match. b) Check point 3. The reports tend to showcase the Wimbledon 2002 men's singles attendance v.s. Wimbledon 2002 women's singles attendance. And since once the first few rounds of the women's game tended to get really one sided and thus avoided by the spectators (while the last few rounds were as interesting, if not more than the men's game), the overall rating for the Women's game got hit.
4. I don't know of any other tournament apart from Wimbledon where the prize money for women is really lower than men. The Brits (at least the Wimbledon organizers)are a quixotic race. They don't allow players to wear clothes of their choice, even. So, IMHO, it's not about discrimination, but about sticking to stupid old customs. We can conveniently ignore the old fools.

Nice topic, though. Will write at length (and more coherently) about this on my blog sometime.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:45:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

JAP, yes, I remember. He was one of my heroes (though this quote had nothing to do with it!).

Ramesh, you mean we can ogle at the guys some of the time?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:46:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Sinfully, you have made some good points. Btw, hope to write a longer post on this myself too!!

Some reactions though:
A Grandslam is like a monopsony situation. They are the prestige tournaments and hardly any substitute tournament is happening at the same time. Obviously, over a year, a player can choose his tournaments, but during a Grand Slam, most will take part irrespective of price being offered (at least within a broad range, in the short run)

I agree with you that a 5-setter will probably get more eyeballs than a 3-setter. Is that the reason why women should start playing 5-sets, by the way? However, my results for just the finals... I wish I can get more data on this, as I said. My hypothesis is that still the men's game gets more eyeballs than women's (a federer vs. nadal or a aggasi vs. sampras is more drama and has probably only been matched by graf vs. seles).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 3:30:00 AM

Blogger Grandebelf said...

what about viewership? only attendance wont make sense. hvnt looked thro the reports though

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 7:43:00 AM

Anonymous Pratyush said...

I have written on this as well dude.

It can be read here: http://www.sportolysis.com/2006/04/26/the-equal-pay-issue/


Wednesday, April 26, 2006 8:04:00 AM


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