In my previous article (part 1) we investigated the possible rationale behind the huge disparity between men and women in the BJJ Pro event coming up soon. In an effort to better understand the reasons behind the disparity between the pay of male and female athletes, I thought it prudent to take a look at how men and women are paid in other sports. For parameters I decided to look at “individualized” sports (like tennis and bowling) and not team sports (like basketball or soccer) since this more closely resembles the nature of BJJ.
First case study: Tennis
Tennis is known for having highly competitive “Majors” four times per year. The Australian open, The French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open are the biggest tournaments of the year and feature both men’s and women’s brackets. A quick look at payouts from the last few years shows us this:
Australian Open – Men’s & Women’s Champion both received an equal payout of: 3.1 million $US
Roland Garros (French open) – Men’s & Women’s Champion both received 1.8 million € Euro
Wimbledon – Men’s & Women’s Champion both received 1.88 million £ GB
U.S Open – Men’s & Women’s Champion will both receive (not yet played in 2015): 3.3 million $US
Conclusion: So, what we can take away from this (besides the MASSIVE cash being paid out for tennis players) is that the tennis world has a 100% equal payout system for men and women.
Case Study: Bowling
Okay, How about something a little less popular? How about something like bowling? Let’s take a look.
Investigating the world of Professional bowling (a new thing entirely for me), it seems there have been a lot of changes in the format of their organizations and tournaments in an effort to combat declining interest over the years. Most recently, it appears there are (like tennis) four Major tournaments per year, but, unlike tennis, it appears that there are two entirely separate tours for men and women. In order to keep this article shorter than the last LONG read in this series, let’s take a look at some payouts for Men -vs- Women in comparable tournaments.
At the IBMHF Challenge, both the men’s and women’s champion took home: $8000 US
At the WBT finals, both the men’s and women’s champion took home: $20,000 US
Conclusion: Again, we can see that even Professional Bowling has a level payout field for men and women (*note: my research seems to indicate that, while payouts for these large tournaments are equal, there are many more men’s tournaments than women’s and the payouts at those smaller tournaments are not always equal.)
For our final case study I wanted to look into one of my personal favorites, and one that BJJ gets a lot of comparison to:
Case Study: Chess
Now, I know going into this bit that, when I was playing chess competitively back in the early 1990’s (at the “no-stripe blue belt” level of a 1620 FIDE rating) women were making considerably less than Men in top level competitions. Let’s take a look at where men’s -vs- women’s chess is in the 21st century.
First things first. The funny thing with Chess is that it has always had issues with arranging, scheduling and pulling off world-championships. It seems like every year there may or may not be a world championship match. It all depends on deciding who will sponsor, where it will be, and the tiniest little details of the defending champions preference for location, timing, type of chair, color of the carpet, sometimes they want to change the name of Monday to Fischer-day (okay, I jest), but in reality, the payouts and schedules of Chess world championships is so sporadic and random it is hard to quantify it in the context we are looking for. However, we are getting lucky this year! Let’s just look at the most recent world championship: both Men and Women had a championship in 2014 and both were in Sochi (host of the 2014 Winter Olympics).
2015 Men’s World Champion: $750,000 US
2015 Women’s Champion: $60,000 US
Wow! Huge disparity! It is almost ironic how similar BJJ and Chess are. The Women’s world chess champion gets only 8% of what the men’s champion gets! That is even worse than the gap at the BJJ Pro event.
Conclusion: The world of Chess is even worse off than the world of BJJ with the exception that, at least, the prize payouts are higher – though very inconsistent. We might have to throw this case study out as an “out-lyer”… or maybe it is suffering the same as women’s BJJ? we’ll see.
So, in the end, what we can take away from our foray into individualized sports is that, in general, they pay 1) pretty well and 2) pretty equally. (With the obvious exception being Chess).
So, why is BJJ (and Chess) so different? Why are women Jiu-Jiteras not being offered the same equity that women tennis players and women bowlers get?
Now we know, at least, that equality in prize money can be done, at a very high level in very successful organizations, no less.
So, why not in BJJ then?
In part 3 of this series I will look into the drivers behind the payouts, the justifications for male -vs- female payouts, how thy achieve them, and Just how the competitive BJJ world might learn and improve from the lessons of these other sports.