Football: Players vote for strike over TV money

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The Independent Online
England's footballers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action and are likely to withdraw their labour for the first time in their history a fortnight today.

The strike action will affect the three divisions below the Premiership, and is the result of a protracted battle between the Football League - which administers the three divisions of the Nationwide League - and the players' union over the distribution of television money.

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, had called on his members to endorse strike action in a ballot carried out in the last month. He will today announce 92 per cent backing for a strike.

When Taylor announces his plans he will almost certainly instruct his members in the First, Second and Third Divisions not to play in any game at which TV cameras are present, either for live coverage or recorded highlights, starting on Saturday 2 November. With all First Division games, and many in the Second and Third, now having cameras present to provide Sky Sports with its extensive coverage, the instruction is likely to affect the majority of matches in the three divisions.

Taylor is prepared to persevere with the strike despite threats from the Football League that it could have long-term consequences. The action will not affect Premiership matches.

At issue is the portion of the television money which has traditionally been paid to the PFA and used to pay for pensions and other benefits. Last minute talks have been lined up between the two parties. Chris Hull, the Football League spokesman, said last night: "We hope for developments over the weekend. We have always stressed that we want to continue our dialogue. Hopefully the PFA will come round to that way of thinking."

The only previous occasion on which England's professionals came close to withdrawing their labour in the 1960/61 season when they sought the lifting of the Football League's maximum wage of pounds 20 per week.

Port Vale's First Division fixture at Wolverhampton today could be their last in the Football League, the club's chairman, Bill Bell, warned yesterday.

Bell, the car dealer who owns 80 per cent of Vale's shares, put the Potteries club and all their players up for sale following protests against him after Wednesday's home defeat by Crystal Palace. He said: "At the moment there is no one coming forward to buy the club. If no one comes in during the next seven days, I would think Port Vale will not remain as a football club."

During the night, a van owned by Bell was set alight by intruders at Vale Park and pushed on to the playing area. Police said they could not rule out a link between the fire and the chairman's decision to sell the club.

Vale are understood to have debts of pounds 800,000, but have risen from the former Fourth Division and more than doubled their gates during Bell's decade at the helm.

Brighton's future is now looking even more uncertain after Portsmouth announced yesterday they will not allow the Seagulls to share their ground next season. Fratton Park has been the Third Division club's first choice for a temporary home ever since the Goldstone ground was sold last year.

Terry Gibson has left Barnet, only five days after being made first-team coach by the Third Division club, who this week appointed Alan Mullery as director of football.

Terry Bullivant, who became caretaker-manager after Ray Clemence's pre- season departure, resigned 24 hours before last Saturday's visit to Cardiff. Gibson, like Mullery and Clemence a former Tottenham player, took charge for that game, which Barnet won 2-1. He resigned after meeting the Barnet chairman, Tony Kleanthous, to discuss his role under Mullery.

Tottenham could be signing the 31-year-old Austrian international defender Anton Pfeffer. Although they have him under contract until 1998, Austria Vienna are prepared to let him go, at an undisclosed fee, if he can agree the move.

All perimeter fences at World Cup venues are to be pulled down in response to the stadium tragedy in Guatemala.

"Fences are for animals and prisoners - not football fans," Sepp Blatter, the general secretary of Fifa, football's world governing body, said yesterday. "I believe that all the fences for the World Cup in France should be taken down."

Fifa have asked that a minute's silence be observed at all football matches this weekend in memory of the more than 80 people who died in the disaster. At least 147 were also injured when fans tumbled down seats and stairs and were trapped by fencing at a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica on Wednesday.