Football: Leboeuf angry at union

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PLAYERS' UNION officials are perturbed by reported remarks made by Franck Leboeuf, Chelsea's French defender, which accuse them of having "too cosy a relationship" with the Football Association to initiate an attempt to reduce the number of matches leading teams are expected to play.

Leboeuf's comments were reported from the findings of a survey carried out among members of the France World Cup squad who were asked for their opinion on the state of the modern game. They reflect the Chelsea player's doubts over whether the Professional Footballers' Association - the players' union - have a strong enough commitment to easing their members' workload.

Leboeuf and the Arsenal midfielder, Emmanuel Petit, even suggested that, just as America's NBA basketball players have done, striking over increased demands of employers was an idea worth considering.

Leboeuf is reported as saying: "We simply have to react. And on our own, not via the union because they are in a too cosy relationship with the FA."

Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive, was not available for comment yesterday, but a PFA spokesman said: "Although it is too delicate a matter for anybody but Gordon to talk about officially, we all know here that he will be very upset if these comments are correct."

The disappointment at the PFA has arisen because officials consider they have fought the authorities to gain satisfactory employment rights for their members. On the eve of last season, the union was ready to take their members out on strike unless they were given a greater share of the television money pouring into the game.

Now the increasing number of matches leading players are expected to play has become a burning issue - and will get worse when the Champions' League is expanded next season to accommodate more clubs. International commitments have also risen with extra nations joining the world governing body, Fifa, following the break-up of the former Soviet and Baltic empires.

Foreign players flooding into British football over the past few years still express amazement that they are expected to compete in the FA Cup and the Worthington Cup, as well as the 38-match Premier League championship - without the benefit of the mid-winter break that is common on the Continent.

In the survey Leboeuf is reported to have said: "I have let myself in for playing up to 55 games a season for the past two years and it's going to take a well-known international to have a heart attack before players wise up and take control of their destiny. They need to go on strike. Certain people are growing fat on our efforts and it has gone on too long."