Serie A players' strike called off

MILAN - This weekend's Serie A players' strike has been cancelled after a deal was reached with the league over a new collective contract, the Italian footballers' union said on Thursday.

"The protest is cancelled," read a statement.

Tuesday's seven-hour meeting at the football federation headquarters in Rome was followed by more lengthy talks on Thursday and an agreement was finally found.

The union was in dispute with Serie A over parts of a new collective contract which guarantees basic players' rights, namely club plans to force unwanted footballers to train away from the first team or accept a transfer.

Thursday's deal means all players with first-team contracts must be allowed to train with the main squad while rules to avoid discrimination have been agreed for unwanted footballers who are put up for sale.

The details will be worked out during the season.

"The union thanks the players who showed... a high sense of responsibility to defend their professional dignity and the fundamental rights of all workers," union president Sergio Campana said.

Three cases this season and one last term had brought the issue into focus.

Goran Pandev was dropped by Lazio last season and forced to train with the youth team after asking for a move. His case went to an arbitration hearing which ruled in his favour and he was allowed to join Inter Milan on a free transfer in January.

CASSANO HEARING

This term, Italy duo Antonio Cassano and Federico Marchetti have been banished by Sampdoria and Cagliari respectively after disagreements with their club owners.

Both players are awaiting their full arbitration hearings with Italy forward Cassano's due to take place on Friday, although a decision on whether Samp's action is lawful and whether he is a now free agent may take some time.

Several clubs have been linked in the media with the striker, who had appeared to have outgrown his bad-boy image before verbally abusing Samp president Riccardo Garrone.

Juventus pair Fabio Grosso and Hasan Salihamidzic were also told in the close season they were no longer required and after failing to agree transfers away, they were dropped from the first team only for injuries to allow them back in.

A first strike was called by the union in September but was postponed to allow more talks. However, as negotiations dragged on without a deal, the union threatened new industrial action for this weekend's matches.

Fans, media and some players criticised the union for daring to tell its millionaire members to strike when Italy is experiencing general economic hardship.


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