Poll: Does Prize Money Need To Be Equal?

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Sparked by a recent press release from an event organiser, we’ve been having a bit of debate about prize money, so we thought we’d see what you have to say. We know you might argue ‘it’s the taking part that counts’, and that prize money only matters materially to a very few – but perhaps it matters in other ways. Maybe prizes are symbolic of how much we value riders, the prestige we give to winning an event, or even signalling who we want to take part?

Let’s take a quick look at the information that set us off thinking about this. For the event, the prize money was as follows:

  • 1st – €500 (Men)/ €120 (Women)
  • 2nd – €300/ €80
  • 3rd – €200/ €60

It should also be noted that if less than 15 women participate, the women’s prize money drops to 50% of the above values.

Money funding
Big money prizes or loose change?

Hmm…we wondered. Is this fair? Is this right? Can it be justified? Everyone pays the same entry fee, everyone rides the same course. The race organisers explained to us that the difference in prize money is because they have 500 men racing, but only 10 women.

You could look at this a few ways – if you’re one of the ten women racing, there are some reasonable odds that you’re going to win some money. You could also argue that the 500 or so men are subsiding the women’s prize fund with their entry fees. But if you’re that winning woman, is your achievement any less than the winning bloke? Should your prize money be less because other women chose not to race? Are there fewer women racing because the prizes aren’t equal, or attractive? What about other relatively small fields – perhaps vets, or juniors – are they getting proportionately smaller prizes? And should they?

Looking at the Enduro World Series, in 2017 there were 274 men, and 87 women who scored points in at least one round of the pro level EWS. Ten women competed in every round, compared to around 30 men. About three times as many men as women then. The prize money for the EWS? Equal. That includes all the continental and qualifying rounds too – see Rule 14 if you’re interested.

Men and women winning a continental event will be award a minimum of €500, although organisers are encouraged to offer more than the minimum. Chris Ball, EWS Organiser, explains:

‘For us it’s simple, yes there are less women, but the racing at the very top for the podium is just as competitive and the very top female racers dedicate just as much energy and risk as the men. So proportional prize money based on category size are a little irrelevant to some extent.’

So that’s another way of looking at it – it takes effort to be at the top, and that should be rewarded. The UCI Mountain Bike World Cups for both XCO and Downhill also offer equal prize funds for men and women – again despite different field sizes.

Of course it’s not just mountain biking where prize funds differ – road cycling is notoriously inequitable, and female pros don’t have a minimum wage, though the men do. Given the prize fund equivalence of UCI mountain bike events, this perhaps seems all the more curious. Often the argument given is that events would not be financially viable if the prize funds were equal. But then if the prizes aren’t sufficient to support and attract racers and their training, will the event ever be viable? And other sports – triathlon often being cited as a good example – race men and women over equal courses for equal prizes, and even attract sponsors despite a lack of TV coverage (often also cited as a reason why an un-televised women’s event should pay less).

Are there no easy answers? Or is it simply a case of equal being the only fair way? Answer our poll and tell us what you think.

What should MTB race prize values for men and women be?

  • Equal. (62%, 305 Votes)
  • Proportionate to the field. (23%, 115 Votes)
  • Whatever the organiser chooses. (15%, 74 Votes)

Total Voters: 494

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Can’t see the poll? Click here

And if you think you have another solution, let us know in the comments below!

Comments (12)

  1. If prize money is to be equal, then they should all race in the same race. If it’s to be separate racing, them the field is the pot, Pretty simple stuff tbh.

    It’s the same argument for the likes of womens football, now I’m all for it, and i’m even all for over promoting it and the like to bring it up to it’s natural level. but you can’t pay the women the same as men. Each should be based on respective income generated. Same with any sport. If you are going to have a subsection of something, we’ll really that subsection needs to be self sufficient. (Unless the aim is to over promote deliberately to boost something, but that can’t and shouldn’t last forever. )

    We don’t live in a socialist world, so capitalist rules apply. As well asking why shouldn’t a 4 or 5th play get the same as a premier league player. It’s a silly question. It’s propertionate to market. You want more prize money/wages, we’ll either grow your niche or join in the larger market/competition.

  2. Grr, can’t edit typos!

  3. No one can support themselves on just the prize money, it’s just a symbolic thing, so why should it be different?

  4. Prize money should be equal.

    The lack of it simply means that finances exclude many who would otherwise be able to participate at the top level. MTB is an expensive sport. Women have to pay the same price as the men for their parts, the same travel expenses, etc etc.

    Their racing is just as enjoyable to watch.

  5. It really should be equal as how the hell are you going to grow the field if there is very little incentive. If I had two kids racing 1 boy and 1 girl, how the hell do I explain to my daughter why she’s getting less? Can you imagine the response? Although maybe that’s it, just ask the teenagers because as we know, they know everything. I do get why it isn’t being done looking simply at pounds, shillings and pence but shouldn’t we above that when trying to grow something?

  6. The North West Cyclocross league mandate equal prizes by place, and a certain percentage of the field in each category get a prize. Means more prizes available to the larger field, (which is, to be frank the men) but the winners, first looser, second looser etc. all get the same money. That works well and seems pretty fair.

  7. Of course it shouldn’t be equal. Prize money should be a percentage of the entry fees for a given field. If women want more prize money, they should increase the size of the field. The only other option would be to take money from the men’s pool, but that is ridiculous based on simply the idea of “equality”.
    The same isn’t being argued for junior categories is it.

  8. I hereby propose a principle known as “Dobson’s Law”, which states that the comments under any piece that Hannah writes prove exactly why it was necessary for her to write it. 🙂

  9. If men are happy with how much prize money they’re getting, it shouldn’t bother them that women get the same, (because as we all know, extending rights doesn’t dilute them) and it shouldn’t bother a spectator either, as all they’ve come to see is racing…I can’t see how the pay differential is sustainable.

  10. In Scotland, our top women CX racers include National Champs on road and MTB, World Cup riders and pro road racers (riders like Isla Short, Eileen Roe, Kerry McPhee) and race at a higher level internationally than most of the top men, so if anything their prize money should be higher. Fortunately for the men, we voted at our AGM in 2014 to have equal prizes for all male and female categories…

    I’m sure it’s just coincidence that our female racer numbers are rising year on year, and that a raft of female CX race clinics and coaching sessions are springing up.

  11. Men aren’t subsidising the women’s prize fund, with a ratio of 500 to 10 they are subsidising women’s racing at this event full stop.

    In a fair and equal society based on the numbers in the article the quickest rider at that event would earn €620 regardless of their age, sex, nationality, etc. Hannah said everyone pays the same entry fee, everyone rides the same course, therefore shouldn’t everyone race the same race? At a tin pot local enduro event if Rachel Atherton turned up she would definitely podium even on a bad day so it’s not a case of women aren’t fast enough and need to be mollycoddled.

    If we want equality then we should treat everyone equally.

  12. Personally, I think women’s prize money should be double men’s. Men don’t have to put up with being called “chix” (whatever tf that means, couldn’t find it in the dictionary). Just saying…

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