By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - First round singles losers at this year's Wimbledon championships will receive 27,000 pounds ($45,400) prize money as organizers continue to help the tournament's lesser lights make ends meet.
Outlining how the grass court grand slam's increased 25 million pounds prize pot will be distributed, the All England Club announced a 14.9 percent raise for first round losers in the main draw of the men's and women's singles.
At the top end this year's singles champions will bank 1.76 million pounds, a 10 percent increase on the 1.6 million pounds Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli earned last year.
All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis justified the increased level of prize money for early losers on Tuesday at the annual media conference ahead of the Championships.
"I slightly take issue with that," Lewis told reporters when questioned whether the prize money on offer for first round losers was appropriate.
"They have worked hard to get here for 12 months either through their world ranking or through qualifying. By being in a main draw of a grand slam means they are world class players.
"The costs and expenses involved in being a top-100 player are huge and while they are not pleading poverty they are not making huge sums of money either for world class athletes."
Since 2011 Wimbledon's annual prize money increases have been heavily weighted towards the losers in the earlier rounds - a move designed to placate lower-ranked players who struggle to balance the books compared to those in the top 10.
This year's increase means first-round prize money has increased by a massive 135 percent in three years, compared to a 60 percent increase for the champions.
"At the heart of the increase is a wish by the club to continue to build on the work of the last two years, targeting the increases to the side of the draw which it was felt needed it the most - those players who lose in the early rounds or in qualifying," All England Club chairman Philip Brook said.
First-round losers at the U.S. Open last year earned $32,000, at this year's Australian Open 30,000 Australian dollars ($27,800) at the Australian Open while at the French Open in 2013 they got 21,000 euros ($29,100).
Apart from the prize money increases, progress on redevelopment work around the south west London site was also outlined, including the planned roof on Court No.1.
Design work is still being done on a retractable roof for the second showcourt, with the structure expected to be in place for the start of the 2019 tournament.
Work would include an extra 900 seats for the court, taking the capacity to 12,400.
This year's tournament will take place on only 17 courts, down from 19, as work on new underground facilities, including a 24-hour media restaurant and enhanced facilities for ball kids working at the tournament, continues.
($1 = 0.5950 British Pounds)
($1 = 1.0796 Australian Dollars)
($1 = 0.7223 Euros)
(Editing by Josh Reich)