Italian players' strike postponed

ROME - The Serie A players' strike for this weekend's matches was postponed on Tuesday to allow time for further negotiations but the threat of future industrial action remains if a deal is not done.

"They've announced that the strike has been suspended," an Italian football federation spokesperson said after the fourth lengthy meeting between the players' association and Serie A bosses.

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The union called the strike two weeks ago in a dispute over a collective contract with the league, which wanted to include a clause saying unwanted players had to accept a transfer and train away from the first team.

A final agreement has yet to be reached and union chief Sergio Campana said the strike would be reinstated if a deal on the two issues was not reached in two months' time.

"Now we will talk until November 30. Without these conditions there will be an automatic strike," he told reporters.

PARTIAL DEAL

Federation president Giancarlo Abete has vowed in the meantime to prevent clubs from carrying out their threat to unwanted players.

"Abete has said he will guarantee that clubs don't enforce these two points," Serie A president Maurizio Beretta said.

The suspension means Saturday's standout game between last season's runners-up AS Roma and champions Inter Milan will go ahead along with the rest of a full programme this weekend.

Matches scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday were never at risk.

A strike in 1996 over similar grievances did go ahead but the union has since threatened industrial action several times only to back down.

This time the weight of ill-feeling among players over a complex contract issue has been greater but public support was scant with pundits and fans scolding the millionaires for daring to strike when average working people are struggling.

The strike would have caused chaos for broadcasters and league schedulers and the spectre of possible action down the line will still make Italian football investors uneasy.

Football in Italy has only just recovered from a 2006 match-rigging scandal while wholesale changes have been made at the federation after the national team were dumped out of the World Cup in the group stage as holders.

As part of the deal so far agreed, the players' union has won a battle to have Serie A matches scheduled for the public holiday of January 6 to be played on December 22 instead.

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