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Martina Navratilova: “John McEnroe is paid 10 times more than me at Wimbledon”

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Susan Devaney
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In an interview, tennis player and commentator Martina Navratilova, has accused the BBC of a gender pay discrepancy at Wimbledon. 

Martina Navratilova has won 18 Grand Slam singles titles in tennis, 31 major women’s doubles titles and 10 major mixed doubles titles, which is why she’s considered by some to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Not forgetting, out of that incredible historic feat she’s scooped the Wimbledon title nine times.

Now, the great tennis player and commentator has said she was “shocked” to discover that her male counterpart, tennis champion John McEnroe, was being paid 10 times more than her after a list detailing the salaries of the top-paid BBC talent was released last summer.

Navratilova, who spoke in detail about the gender pay gap at the BBC on the TV programme, Panorama: Britain’s Equal Pay Scandal (due to air in full on Monday 19 March), has accused the BBC of valuing male voices more than female voices.

“It was a shock because John McEnroe makes at least £150,000… I get about £15,000 for Wimbledon and unless John McEnroe’s doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon he’s getting at least 10 times as much money,” Navratilova says.

However, Navratilova alleges that she was assured by the BBC that she was being paid a comparable amount to the male commentators.

“We were not told the truth, that’s for sure,” says Navratilova. “(I’m) not happy… It’s shocking… It’s still the good old boys network.”

BBC Sport told the programme that McEnroe’s role was of “a different scale, scope and time commitment” to Navratilova, adding: “They are simply not comparable”. The programme claims McEnroe appeared 30 times for the BBC at Wimbledon last year, compared with Navratilova’s 10 appearances.

A spokesperson said: “Along with Sue Barker, John is regarded as the face of our Wimbledon coverage. He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage. He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences and his contract means he cannot work for another UK broadcaster without our permission. His pay reflects all of this – gender isn’t a factor.”

The programme, which delves further into the gender pay gap issue at the corporation, is an ongoing major issue for the public body. Since publishing its top-earning staff, only a third of whom were women, the corporation has had to review its current pay structure. After doing so, they found that men on average are being paid 9.3% more than women, and nearly 500 employees may be getting paid less than colleagues in a similar role due to gender.

As such, journalist and former China Editor Carrie Gracie, published an open letter accusing the broadcaster of harvesting a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.

In her open letter, Gracie revealed that as the BBC’s China Editor she was earning significantly less than her male counterparts. “In the past four years, the BBC has had four international editors – two men and two women… Last July I learned that in the previous financial year, the two men earned at least 50% more than the two women,” she wrote.

Gracie resigned from her post after discovering her male colleagues were earning significantly more than she was. She has since been fully supported by former female colleagues and has vowed to return to the newsroom when she’s paid equally.

You can read more on the gender pay gap in the UK here.

Images: Getty / Twitter