We’ve looked at the practical possibilities of minimum wages for women in cycling, but how about the moral aspect. Should men and women have equal minimum wages in pro cycling? Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? So it won’t surprised you that – unreasonable as I am – I’ll answer that with a big NO (and a small yes).
Let’s start with the small yes. I would agree that in their role as ATHLETES, they should be treated equally. If you get money just for being an athlete, you should get the same money regardless if you’re a male or female. For example, if you get money from your national olympic committee to prepare for London 2012 (as many athletes do), your gender shouldn’t matter.
In the same vain, it shouldn’t matter if you’re a rower, a ping pong player or a cyclist; if your country decides to spend tax dollars on sports in order to win medals at the olympics, it stands to reason you support all these athletes the same (if they pass the same criteria).
I don’t pretend to know all the Olympic programs in the world, but it is my impression that most national olympic committees work in this manner. Great, fantastic, equality achieved. But what the heck does this have to do with professional sports? I would argue: absolutely nothing.
Professional athletes aren’t paid to be athletes, they are paid in an economic transaction where the paying side receives a benefit that is hopefully bigger than the salary paid. The benefit could be in the form of direct revenue (ticket sales,merchandise) or indirect revenue (logo exposure or public appearances for a sponsor leading to a revenue increase for said sponsor). It has nothing to do with equality, it’s unequal in every way imaginable because it’s a simple economic transaction. A rower makes less money than a soccer player, a soccer player at Barcelona makes more than at Sporting Riga, per definition everybody gets compensated in line with the value they offer.
In some cases, a female athlete makes more than her male counterparts (I’m pretty sure the best-paid triathlete in the UK is a woman), unfortunately that’s rare. But in all cases, discussions about what people deserve are moot. Nobody deserves to be a professional athlete, there is no God-given right to turn your hobby into your job and get paid for it. It’s a privilege to find a company willing to support you to make that switch a reality. In fact, it’s also a privilege to have the tax payer support you to win some medals (or fail miserably) at the next olympics.
However, leaving it at that would be unfair to women sports. Although it is my strong belief that you cannot force sponsors to support athletes without an economic return (they will simply leave and sponsor golf or sailing instead), the same cannot be said for our sports federations.
We’ll cover that tomorrow, , so check back here or just subscribe.