Helen Wyman: Pressing the equality button

Women and men should have equal prize money

Sometimes you tweet and nobody cares but sometimes you catch the imagination of others and everything takes off. Yesterday’s conversation about equality in cyclo-cross was one of those days. I'm in a position to try to influence the future shape of women's cyclo-cross with my place on the UCI cross commission. This role is very much about the evolution of the sport, and there is certainly no revolution plan in place to just press the equality button.

The slow political change is frustrating, for everyone, not just me. Even changes we agree take some time to come into effect. Yesterday’s messages came following some points I confirmed. There has already been progress for women's cross, and there is more agreed that will come into effect next season. However I'm keen for there to be more, including equal prize money at all levels of cross.

Ok, haters, let me just confirm a few things based on your frequent given excuses:

1 - We (Elite & Pro Women) would be happy to race for one hour, the same as men, to secure equal prize money. We aren't allowed, as the rules say we can't. I repeat - I'd be happy to race for an hour.
2 - We (Elite & Pro Women) train just as hard, and for as many hours as the men.
3 - Our races are just as exciting to watch
4 - We race on the same course, and face the same challenges
5 - Entry numbers at the very top of the sport are almost identical. That is despite the huge disparity in prize money

So, personally in 2015, I don't think there is an excuse for women not to be receiving the same minimum prize fund. If the minimum salary in a country was lower for women, there would be riots. If prize funds were different based on skin colour or sexual orientation, there would be riots. We don't want to riot, we want to race. We just want equality.

So I tweeted some examples from one of the Christmas cross races, Namur.

Yes, that means 14 riders got paid €300 each, despite not even finishing on the lead lap. That’s a total of €4,200. The entire prize fund for women's race is €7,400. So an amount equal to 56% of the total women's prize fund goes to men who couldn't finish on the lead lap.

A lot of the men in these races aren't aware of the disparity. I mean, why should they care? Many have said, once they're aware of it, they think it's wrong, and only those on lead laps should be paid. They include Jonathan Page and Jeremy Durrin. Note: they are all North American.

Yes JP, it does feel like it's 1950, a lot. So, back to my messages, here was number 2 in the sequence:

Just to confirm, 50 men get prize money in a World Cup, meanwhile 25 women get paid. So not only does an amount more that 50% of our prize fund go to lapped men, us women only get 50% of the opportunity to win a prize. For those of you that haven't seen it before, here is the prize list for a World Cup:

Yes, your eyes are seeing it right. That’s a prize fund for women equal to 17.4% of the men’s race.

In many of the World Cup events, the women's field is very similar. Valkenburg was 90% of the men’s, Namur it was 91%, and Zolder it was 95%. So despite the low salaries on offer for the majority, more severe selection criteria, and of course (broken record time) lower prize money, women riders are showing their commitment to the sport. That’s why I'm so passionate about it.

Did you say the selection criteria is different? Yes I did. Best example is my home nation of Britain. Spot the difference in these regulations, which means it much harder for a women to gain entry to a World Cup. Add to that the fact that for years, National Trophy races have been UCI c2 events for men, but not for women, meaning domestic based women can't score any UCI points, unlike the men. A double, or triple discrimination whammy:

So another stat for you, over the first 5 world cups, 62 men have been paid €300 in prize money despite being lapped. That’s a total of €18,600. Frustrating when after the final round, that number will be over €20,000, which will be more than 50% of our overall prize fund of €40,000. For those that have never seen that, it's here:

Thats right, its 25% of the men's....despite the fact we ride 66% as long, generally have 90% of the numbers....and remember, we are happy to race longer, but can't.

So my next message was this:

So let’s step away from prize money, this tweet was noticed due to parking. Yes, this is true. Women weren't allowed to park in the "elite" parking. This is a disgrace really, there is simply no defending it. We are "elite" to. We deserve an opportunity to perform on an equal basis, otherwise it's not fair to judge us. Again, you imagine if the organisers had decided to discriminate on another basis....there would be riots.

So, I finished things off by saying this:

The front of the women's race was outstanding. It's fast, exciting and has an expanding fan base. Vos is the greatest cyclist to have graced this planet, Nash is setting new standards for us mortals to chase, and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot has started jumping barriers meaning I have a grim summer blowing out front tubulars as I try to keep up with new French superpower of cycling.

In a financial climate that remains challenging, it's about time we took advantage of all opportunities available. The expansion and development of women's cycling could bring vital revenue to the sport. It brings increased TV, media and spectator potential and along with it sponsorship revenue.

I'm also a realist, and I know you can't just magic up €120,000 euro to equal the overall prize fund, or €35,000 for each round of the World Cup. My solution is simple, we add it up, and divide by 2. We have an equal prize fund, spread over an equal number of places.

Of course, if you know someone that wants to sponsor the equalization of prize funds, just drop them my email and I'll make sure it happens.

There is no justification for this disparity.

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