THE All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (aka “Wimbledon”) has often been a forward–looking institution despite its antiquated name. In 1967 it chose to make its renowned annual Championships “open”. In other words, the professional tennis players who had been deserting the amateur game around the world for several years were welcomed back. A Wimbledon chairman, Herman Davis, called the amateur game a “living lie” and within a year every major championship was open.

In 1967 Wimbledon was in the vanguard of change. Forty years later it is ignominiously bringing up the rear. Its decision to pay men and women players equal prize money brings it into line with all the other Grand Slam tournaments which have been offering equal pay for some years. Yesterday the chairman of the Club, Tim Phillips, sought to justify the change with a number of platitudinous and illogical statements, one of which was that it would “encourage girls who want a career in sport to choose tennis as their best option”. That is to say, apparently, that last year's 625'000 pounds for the winner of the women's championship would not “encourage” girls but this year's 655'000 pounds might! In reality the gap between men's and women's pay should be bigger than it is. Men play five sets, women three. Women's tennis has improved enormously in recent years but most ticket–buyers and TV viewers prefer men's tennis to women's, given the choice. Wimbledon should not have capitulated.


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