How Brexit could make Wimbledon players lose a *lot* of money
“How will this affect tennis players” is low on the list of questions and concerns after the UK’s stunning vote to leave the European Union (which, I must add, despite all the new experts on Twitter, none of us knew this EU even existed until seven days ago). But depending on how quickly markets rebound after Friday’s panicked sell-off, there could be a sporting implication of the Brexit: Wimbledon players will be making a lot less money.
The Brits kept the pound as its currency and shunned the Euro (sort of setting stage for the difficulty to come). That pound had lost ground to the dollar and Euro in the lead-up to the vote and now, after “leave” was the victor, it’s sliding like Novak Djokovic lunging for a forehand. What does that mean for the Djokovics and, far more importantly, the first-round losers of the world? To quote Queen Elizabeth at her jubilee: “It ain’t good, friendo.”
Wimbledon has always been the most prestigious and lucrative Grand Slam (the championship views them as one and the same) though this year it dips slightly behind the U.S. Open. Still, the prize money for the winner was set to be just a bit under $3 million (£2 million) with the total outlay for the gentlemen’s and ladies’ singles tournaments at £21,712,000.
What hath the Brexit wrought? Last year the exchange rate dictated that one British pound equaled 1.57 dollars. That number has steadily fallen over the course of the year but only down to about 1 to 1.46, on average. At the moment (2 p.m. ET, Friday) the exchange rate is 1 U.S. dollar to 1:36 pounds, the lowest since Michael J. Fox was going Back to the Future in 1985.
So let’s do some simple math. We take the Wimbledon prize money, listed in pounds, for this year. Then let’s see what that would have been in dollars exactly 50 weeks ago, when the 2015 tournament ended. Then we’ll check the current exchange rate to see how the Brexit-related collapse will diminish Wimbledon winnings for anyone depositing it in a bank with dollars or Euros.
That’s substantial. Novak Djokovic has made over $100 million in his career. Roger Federer isn’t far behind. Serena Williams has pulled in $77 million. Though the winner or runner-up will get 400,000 and 200,000 fewer dollars respectively (let’s just keep this at dollars instead of Euros), those players aren’t going to be hurting for cash. Sure, Djokovic and Serena would surely prefer to be getting the equivalent of $3.1 million instead of $2.7 million, but that’s “bottom of the tennis bag” money for them.
No, this hurts the players who haven’t won much this year and see the Grand Slams as a windfall. A difference of $10,000 for a second-round loss by the world No. 89 makes a big difference. If a No. 7 seed gets upset in the same round, no big deal.
The biggest losers, and this would happen more often than not on the women’s side, is when a low-ranked player has a magical run to the semifinals. Kiki Bertens won $538,000 in her surprise appearance in the French Open semis. That almost tripled the $229,000 she’d made prior to the French, a total which sounds like a lot of money but after travel, lodging, coaches, trainers, food and whatnot, it’s not. A similar run in London would have brought $780,000. Now it’s worth $680,000. That’s a big difference.
Of course, markets are as volatile as Nick Krygios and Fabio Fognini playing doubles so this may be (somewhat) rectified in two weeks. If not, winning Wimbledon suddenly became a lot less lucrative.