WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Should women earn as much as men for playing tennis? The officials at Wimbledon don't think so.
They said as much yesterday while announcing a record $6.8 million payout in prize money for this year's tournament. The men will be making more money than the women, Wimbledon chairman John Curry said.
"It reflects the situation around the world," Curry said. "Elsewhere, the prize money differentials are greater on the whole."
In taking that stand, Wimbledon officials rejected demands by women players and officials for equal pay.
"We are aware of their desire," Curry said at a news conference. "We think we are very fair and reasonable. Every year we sit down and think about it. It's not a decision taken lightly."
Curry, however, did not rule out women making as much as men in the future.
"One day it may even be more [for the women]," he said. "I don't think there's any sacrosanct rule or policy."
This year's payout represents a 5 percent increase over last year. The breakdown of prize money for the June 24-July 7 event has the men receiving $3.7 million and the women $3.1 million. The men's champion will receive $408,000, while the women's champion gets $367,000.
In setting the level of this year's prize money, Wimbledon officials took into account the fluctuation in exchange rates, Curry said.
Last year's prize money increase was 23 percent, reflecting depreciation of the pound in 1989. But the pound has strengthened considerably against the dollar this year.
"We think this is fair and reasonable in relation to prize money around the world," Curry said.
Traditionally, the U.S. Open is the highest-paying of the Grand Slam events. The figure for this year's Open is expected to be announced later this spring.
The Women's Tennis Association recently demanded equal prize money at all Grand Slam tournaments as a condition for its acceptance of a women's Grand Slam Cup -- similar to the men's year-end event that began in 1990.
Of the four Grand Slam events, only the U.S. and Australian Opens offer the same prize money to men and women. Wimbledon and the French Open still pay more to the men.
"We're pleased in the increase in prize money. However, we still are disappointed that we have not been able to close the gap in the prize money offered to men and women," said WTA executive director Gerry Smith, who was in Hamburg, Germany. "We would hope that in time the All England Club would grant the women equality in prize money."
Smith said it will take more time to change some of the traditions at Wimbledon.
"This is just one of their traditions. It takes time to change traditions," he said. "We hope in time they will consider the merits and decide in our favor.