Wimbledon’s prize money for 2014 will be a record 25 million pounds, an increase of 2.44 million from last year’s total. And the good news is that the amount awarded to early round losers has significantly risen, giving some much-needed relief to players struggling to afford the potentially crippling costs of playing on the professional circuit.
First round Wimbledon losers will receive 27,000 pounds, 14.9 percent more than last year. Quite a hike, but, as Richard Lewis, the All England Club Chief Executive, pointed out, a much deserved one. Lewis said that players had to work hard to make it into the 128 player main draw through their world ranking or qualifying.
Philip Brook, the Wimbledon chairman, also supported the decision. He stated that the focus had been on helping out the players who needed it most, the ones who lost in qualifying and the early rounds.
It is recognition the players will much appreciate. A player like the U.S’ Michael Russell for example, currently ranked 97, who has lost 26 times in the first round of slams, four times in the second and once in the last sixteen, needs all the help he can get. Last year, Forbes ran an article detailing the expenses Russell had to pay last season. Accommodation, travel, racket stringing, taxes, and day-to-day living costs all added up to an estimated $75,000.
Russell made $287, 279 in 2013, which looks like a lot, but does not look so good when taking into account Russell is in the world’s top 100 of his chosen profession. Also, like most professional athletes, he will have started training for that job in his early years, sacrificing a lot of his childhood on the way to his dream of competing at events like Wimbledon. Another factor to consider is that Russell will not be able to earn that kind of money forever. Tennis professionals typically retire around the age of 30 and while they can generate income working in the industry as coaches or consultants, the rewards are not as potentially lucrative. So the 27,000 pounds first round prize money will be much welcomed by Russell and his peers.
It is not only the players at the bottom who will benefit, though. The players at the very top will also receive a pay increase. Though their pay hike is only 10 percent, both gentlemen and ladies’ singles Wimbledon champions will receive 1.76 million pounds. Again, it looks like a lot, and it is, but being an Andy Murray or a Marion Bartoli is not cheap either. A coach of the caliber of Ivan Lendl can cost around half a million pounds a year and then there are bonuses to consider. Plus physiotherapists, psychologists, agents and other entourage members.
And it is only fair that players across the spectrum see their pay increase. It was the players as a team, after all, who demanded the pay rise, asking for more of the huge profits made by Wimbledon and the other Grand Slams. They even went as far as to threaten a boycott at the 2012 Australian Open unless they saw more of the revenue, an opinion that was supported by the Australian Open tournament referee Craig Tiley.
Wimbledon certainly has the cash to spare to keep its stars and supporting cast happy. The championships made a surplus of over 35 million pounds last year. No wonder the competitors, who take part in media event upon media event to publicize the event, wanted a slice of the action. And, luckily for those struggling at the bottom, there are pretty large slices for everyone to enjoy.
Commentary by Christian Deverille