Female rider minimum wage – compare to men

October 4, 2011

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.

17 Responses to “Female rider minimum wage – compare to men”

  1. There is possibly call for those women’s teams who wish to be registered as UCI to have a minimum wage and others (corollary to the Conti men’s teams) to not.
    Young riders, development riders and those in their first pro season are obviously not bringing any UCI points or as much value as some of the women currently competitive at a world cup level.
    I agree that the teams would be destroyed by enforcing this minimum wage across the board.
    But if there are 3 levels of teams for men, it stands that 2 level: a Pro and a Conti could exist for women.
    Perhaps the age average rule could then be scrapped for the ‘Pro’ teams.

    • While this is possible, the problem is that there would be only a handful of teams in the top category. Which means that in ALL the races, teams from the top and the second category would race. I.e. there is no difference between the two team levels, it’s a distinction for distinction’s sake.

      Hence my argument to get the budgets up (I will address that later) and then when you have 10 or 15 teams that can support a minimum wage, you institute one.

  2. connie Says:

    I would direct the readers to the UCI joint agreements to read the detail of the what minimum wages are for the men’s professional teams (basically in the 23-33,000 Euro range). You can find this on the http://www.uci.ch website. What IS instructive here is that the joint agreements are designed to give protection to professional cyclists (salary minimums, working conditions, guaranteed coverage in case of injury, insurance for disability etc) and to set the terms of operations for the teams.

    Further, women’s cyclists are not included in this agreement. So at the very least, women have to start by lobbying to be included in the association of professional cyclists (CPA) or better yet, create a league of their own making that is recognized by UCI and serves to not only protect the current crop of elite racers but also to lobby for changes that will allow women’s cycling to flourish. (Educate me if I’m wrong and such an professional association exists?).

    I stopped racing in 1984. In that era we were not considered professionals, because only ‘amateurs’ raced in the Olympic Games. I would argue in general that perhaps women are still racing as ‘amateurs,’ while the men have made great strides as ‘professionals.’ If this is inflammatory, I apologize. If it rings true, maybe it’s time to do something about it.

    What do you think?

    • I fully agree. They should be included, they should be represented at the federation level and appropriate rules should be implemented for them.

      As for what are really amateurs and pros, I’ll get to that tomorrow (you’re always one step ahead of me Connie!) That’s actually a step up from the last time I saw you, when I think you lapped me (were we not in that charity criterium in Monaco together?)

  3. red knight Says:

    there is a difference between idealistic and realistic

  4. beev Says:

    Slightly at a tangent, but a relevant one i hope – There are as many reasons/arguments to abolish minimum wage structures, be it for men or women, as there are reasons to have them. I don’t intend to debate any of them here, but what i do intend to do is offer an observation on a perceived gender imbalance in cycling when it comes to pay – hopefully without getting pilloried by either of the sexes.

    Of all sports, it is arguable that it is only tennis where women have gained anything like parity with men when it comes to pay. In fact, they are “overpaid” relative to men in tennis (when measured on any number of criteria), but that is not something i’m going to debate either.

    For me, it is how they have achieved this that is key – basically by “piggy-backing” the mens tour in their sport. So, why is it not possible for the womens UCI world cup calendar to do the same wherever possible? Run the womens races on the same day and same (but shorter) route as the mens but at an earlier time….

    • I’ve advocated for that many times, it’s simple to do, cheap and the responsibility of the federations (who after all represent the sport, for men and women). It is the ultimate globalization; no longer ignoring half of the population.

  5. cathy Says:


    Including women as part of all tennis tour events has made equal pay more possible and likely by making pay differences more visible and payouts from the same funding source. However, I think what got women to this point was a strong player’s association starting in the early 1970’s and a popular and well-supported women’s tour, Virginia Slims. There’s also a longer tradition of including women at majors, at least Wimbledon.

    I disagree that women tennis players are overpaid compared to men.Tennis (like all sports) seems to go in cycles. Sometimes the men’s field has more depth of talent and personality and is more interesting, and sometimes it’s the women who are more fun to follow.
    That said, I don’t see why women’s cycling events are not run concurrently with men’s. It would be easier for the organizers than running a separate event. Greater exposure would attract more women’s sponsors and thereby support increased pay. It would also attract more sponsors for the event itself. It would be a benefit to the fans to have more than one event to watch and better TV coverage.There could be problems providing lodging for twice as many riders and staff in some areas.

    As far as shorter, while it might make logistics easier in some situations, I’ve never understood the short distance of women’s events. Women have equal or better endurance compared to men. There’s no reason they can’t race the same course.

    • beev Says:

      cathy – first of all – apologies – i stated women should ride shorter distances without thinking (3 sets versus 5 and all that – more below). to clarify, i’m happy to see good womens racing over any distance – in fact it would be of real interest to me to see how well women would cover the typical monument parcours and perhaps even the different type of rider that we may see excelling.

      now, back to my overpaid reference – i was thinking of the more tangible criteria (time on court, time in play, games played, ad/tv/ticket revenues etc) to measure “value” as opposed to other less tangible measures (aesthetics, personality, quality/style of play etc). i was handed a research piece several years ago that looked into all such tangible data taken across tennis tournaments that were either mixed, men only or women only. the results showed quite clearly that in terms of prize money (not sponsorship) the women exceeded men in many “$’s per” criteria, and also that there was a massive revenue drop off for women only tournaments.

  6. Martin W Says:

    @cathy – completely agree on distance. This ridiculous idea is so ingrained that, for example, in the Olympics next year the Team Pursuit is held over 16 laps for men and 12 laps for women – that’s a 4-minute event! And does anyone seriously believe that professional women tennis players can’t handle a five-set match?

    It’s almost as if we need to hang on to *something* that makes the women’s event less prestigious than the men’s…

  7. Hurricane Shawn Says:

    Therein lies the problem, “at an earlier time….” …in which fewer people are watching. Meaning less viewership and less exposure for the sponsors. It might help in weekend races, but that doesn’t cover everything.

  8. beev Says:

    shawn – i see more benefits than problems to running same day races.

    the fact is more camera’s will be there if mens and womens events are aligned – and this is key to ensuring the possibility of good coverage and therefore revenue generation.

    furthermore, given the majority of cycle racing in most countries is not watched live (the ever expanding global calendar this is going to ensure this doesn’t change anytime soon) it is of far less importance when the womens racing actually takes place relative to the mens.

    the real problem will be how to turn good coverage into viable airtime – be it live or recorded. personally, i would only watch a fraction of live womens events compared to the mens, but have no issue seeing “x” minutes of the womens same day event in a highlights program in the evening – it’s just ascertaining what “x” should be that is the problem….

  9. tom hewitt Says:

    A minimum wage? In a free society, contracts are voluntary and wealth is not coerced from one to be given to another. That is immoral. Perhaps I make quilts, they are good quilts and I put a lot of time into them but they’re not quite as nice as the quilts that others make. People prefer to buy the quilts of others. I would like to sell my quilts for the same amount or somewhat less than the competition but it turns out that I can’t sell my quilts at all. My friends and family think my quilts are great but they don’t buy them, either. Should there be some central quilt authority that requires that a certain percentage of quilts sold be quilts made by me? Should minor quilt makers receive some sort of subsidy from the retail bedding industry and the successful quilt makers for keeping the tradition alive, regardless of the quality of their quilts?

    Or should I and other lesser quilt makers attempt to improve the quality of our quilts and make them more attractive to potential customers? Should we convince them that they would enjoy having our quilts on their bed just as much or more than they would those of the master quilters? Or should I just continue to make quilts because I love to do so, selling those that I can, giving away others, until I find other ways to channel my energy?

    • Bart DeWitte Says:

      This is not how minimum wage works, it’s not because you want to make quilts that someone has to pay you for that? You can still work for yourself for less than minimum ‘wage’ if you like.

      It only applies when you hire someone else, and then you still have the decision to hire or not hire that person, depending if you think they are worth that wage.

  10. Operarunner Says:

    Gerard, while the current economics of pro cycling support your central argument, and this is a rebuttal I have made many times, saying we can’t afford a min wage for women is unfair and unequal. Think of slavery. Blacks in American weren’t paid because the economic model at the time didn’t support it. Did it make it right? Not a chance. Paying women a lower rate to do the same job is illegal in most western countries. Sure the current model can’t handle a min wage for women’s teams. But it doesn’t make it right.

    • I disagree. I will make a larger argument in one of the next posts, but one of the issues is that we have to decide what we want to call professional. You can’t simply pronounce yourself professional and therefore demand a minimum wage.

      Especially in sports, there are plenty people acting at the highest level who do not make minimum wage and have to take a job to support themselves. Is that slavery? No, that’s performing your hobby at a very high level, unfortunately it’s a hobby too few people care about so of course you need to find another way to support yourself.

      Olympic wrestling, rowing, table tennis, shooting, archery, many participants in these sports (men and women) don’t make minimum wage and why should they? There is no God-given right to turn your hobby into your profession and demand minimum wage.

  11. paddy Says:

    Another two thought provoking blogs. Pity this subject is not discussed more widely in the multitude of cycling publications and websites. But as you said in an earlier blog there are very few journalists in cycling now willing to write on problem issues in case they lose their freebies from teams/sponsors.

    Any rider taking part in racing should have certain basic rights whatever sex, whatever level including a living wage, insurance and medical cover. They UCI should dictate the basic minimum contract conditions as part of any licence. The teams would have to spend more money at the bottom end of their wages bill but it is peanuts compared to the farce that is going on at Sky this week . If we say for ease of arithmetic, 10 riders on a pro tour men’s team are on the minimum wage, increasing their salary by say £10000 each, will only increase the wage bill by £100000. As a pro tour teams budgets run into the millions, this is a drop in the ocean for most teams.

    You discuss the minimum wage but what is the typical distribution of salary for a pro team and how many riders, men and women, are in the min wage category on a pro tour team such as Garmin-Cervelo or HTC? You argue that there is no budget to pay . The budget is there but the problem is the way the money is distributed. I have no problem with any rider’s earnings being related to their success as a sign of respect for what they have achieved. However, the amounts at the top should not be obscene and should not deprive those at the lower end from earning a good living wage. Without those on the minimum wage there would be no meaningful racing .

    What do those on the minimum wage think about Cavendish selling himself to the highest bidder? He is only in possession of the WC because of the work done by his less well paid teammates backed by Sky. Now out of sheer greed he is putting 2 fingers up at Brailsford, Sky and teammates. Like Vaughters he is no gentleman and does not honour his word.

    I will have more respect for Brailsford, Sky, Pinarello, and Addidas if they ignored Cavendish’s demands and increased the wages of all their riders from the savings. They would still have pplenty of money to develop women’s team paying them a good living wage, well above any minimum wage out of the savings.

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