Italians in a stew over lunchtime kick-offs

MILAN, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Serie A's decision to introduce lunchtime kick-offs was roundly criticised on Monday following Sunday's drab 0-0 draw between Bari and Cagliari.

Italian fans, who prefer evening games despite the large distances away supporters have to travel, had already complained about the early kick-offs with banners saying "Sorry Mamma I'll be late for lunch" at the two previous midday matches this term.

Television broadcasters were behind the innovation for this season where one Sunday match is played earlier than the rest but a further problem arose this weekend when the midday heat in southern Italy meant the players in Bari struggled.

"I would scrap them if the television contracts allowed it," Cagliari president Massimo Cellino, among the Serie A bosses who signed the lucrative new TV deal which also includes cameras in dressing rooms before kickoff, told reporters.

"It was an error. (Issues like the heat) were undervalued and I think that there is no price to pay which justifies a sacrifice like that. I hope there's time to review the idea."

Lunchtime kick-offs are commonplace in the English Premier League, partly to cater for Asian television audiences, while Italian football has dabbled with early games sporadically before.

"It was a marketing choice," Italian players' union vice-president Leonardo Grosso told Radio Anch'io. "They said, 'if you want the TV money you have to accept this' but I'm perplexed."

Talks are ongoing to try to prevent a strike this weekend called by the players' union in a row over a collective contract with the league, but Cellino joked they should walk out over lunchtime games.

"Why not strike against this absurd kick-off time?" he said.