Italy set for players' strike after talks fail

ROME - Italy looked almost certain to face a players' strike after talks on Thursday failed to produce an agreement between players and the league 48 hours before the scheduled start of the Serie A season.

Serie A President Maurizio Beretta said the league, representing the 20 top flight clubs, had rejected the latest proposal from the Italian FA aimed at ending a dispute over the signing of a collective agreement concerning players' rights.

"The proposal... does not make Serie A change its position, we hope that the Italian Players Union (AIC) calls off the strike and accepts our proposal in its integrity," Beretta said in a statement on the league's website.

The AIC has already said there would be no matches if a new agreement was not signed and its president Damiano Tommasi reiterated its stance.

"We said it several days ago and we repeat today: without the signing of the collective contract, the players will not go out on to the pitch on Saturday and Sunday," he told the ANSA news agency.

"We are now waiting for [Italian FA president Giancarlo] Abete's decision."

There was no indication of when or whether the strike would be officially declared, or of what the next step would be.

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) sharply criticised the dispute.

"CONI condemns the bitter tone which has characterised the whole matter and expresses its deepest regret at the development of a situation which is becoming incomprehensible and unsustainable," it said in a statement.

The FA's proposal was to set up a special fund to guarantee that clubs would not have to pay a new austerity tax introduced by the government.


The dispute has rumbled on since the end of the 2009/10 season when a previous agreement expired.

Strikes were twice averted at the last minute last season.

The AIC has said that agreement was reached last season and it was only a matter of Serie A putting pen to paper.

However, disagreement has surfaced over the interpretation of the so-called article seven concerning players who are no longer wanted by their coaches.

AIC wants those players to be allowed to train with the squad until they reach the end of their contracts while the clubs want autonomy for the coaches.

A further problem has followed the government's announcement of the new tax, known as the solidarity contribution, on wages over 90,000 euros per year.

The clubs want the agreement to include a clause stipulating that the players must pay the tax, rather than the clubs.

Tommasi said, however, this was a red herring as the players have not objected to paying the tax.

Serie A, with dilapidated stadiums and falling attendances, already faces a credibility problem and the strike is the latest blow to the league once considered the world's strongest.

The new season is due to start on Saturday with Siena hosting Fiorentina and titleholders AC Milan visiting Cagliari.