Men’s cycling has a minimum a minumum wage, but it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Let’s take a look:
First off, there are several minimum wages for men. There is the minimum wage for riders of WorldTour teams (33,000 Euro), there is the minimum wage for Continental Pro teams (27,500 Euro) and then there are the Continental teams. For the latter, minimum wage is zero (which is probably one of the reason it’s zero for the women too, since many of the women’s regulations are based on Continental team rules).
On top of this, WorldTour and Pro Conti teams have separate minimum wages for neo-pros (26,700 and 23,000 Euro respectively). In case the rider is self-employed rather than directly employed by the paying agent, the minimum is 150% of the above (as the rider now has to pay his own social charges, etc).
If you make the minimum wage the same for women as it is for the WorldTour or Pro Conti, there would be no women’s teams left. It simply wouldn’t be viable at all, the disconnect between the exposure and the payroll would be completely out of whack. It’s already difficult – rightfully or wrongfully – to justify a women’s team for many organizations now. Doubling, trebling or tenfolding the payroll is not going to help the sport, it would kill it.
To put it bluntly, there are women’s teams with very small budget where the total payroll is about equal to the minimum wage of one WorldTour rider. And that’s not because the manager pockets all the money and is getting rich. Everybody on such teams is doing it for the love of the sport and happy to get a few Euros in compensation.
Therefore, to me asking for a minimum wage to be mandatory in women’s cycling is the backward approach. It won’t magically increase the budgets of the teams who currently can’t afford a minimum wage, it will simply shutter them. The only viable approach is to get the budgets up, and once they are up, you can start to set minimum wages. At that point it’s basically wealth redistribution, with the top rider salaries being blunted a little in favor of the domestiques.
But, you may argue, that’s an awfully practical approach. How about the principle that men and women riders should be treated equally? To see the sparks fly tomorrow, subscribe here.