Football: Taylor threatens strike action

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The Independent Online
The Football League is unhappy over comments made yesterday by the players' union chief, Gordon Taylor, concerning a possible strike by players in the Nationwide League.

Taylor has revealed that strike action in the League "seems inevitable" over a wrangle over Sky Television money. The union is demanding a guaranteed share of the League's pounds 25m deal with the satellite station, but talks broke down last week and strike ballot papers will go out next week.

The Professional Footballers' Association wants 10 per cent of the money and, if action goes ahead, players will refuse to turn out for televised games. "I cannot see any daylight. Strike action seems inevitable. The 10 per cent was traditionally a fixed figure," Taylor said.

Niall Quinn, the Manchester City striker, said last night that he believed 90 per cent of Nationwide League players would back their union and support strike. Speaking on Radio Five Live's Inside Edge programme, Quinn, whose side are due to feature in the first televised game of the season against Ipswich on 16 August, denied the union was being greedy and was only asking for the same percentage it had received for the past 20 years.

"I have played as an international and earned good money over the last few years, but you should go and find out what the PFA does for guys further down the ladder," he said. "I don't see why we should concede when the money is getting bigger and why we should lose our pitch and the strength we have got, all because people seem to think we have a lot of money in the bank."

Despite Taylor saying that the meeting last week "resolved nothing" and that no future discussions were planned, the League's assistant secretary, Andy Williamson, responded yesterday by expressing his hopes that there is still room for negotiation. "Our understanding is that we meet the PFA again on 23 August and that, in the meantime, there is a stay in any projected action,'' he said. "Consequently we are disappointed and surprised to read Mr Taylor's comments that he intends proceeding with the balloting for strike action.

While Alan Shearer was being shown off before his new fans at Newcastle, his former striking partner at Blackburn, Chris Sutton, was seeing a club specialist and facing the prospect of being out of action for four weeks. The pounds 5m striker has pulled out of Rovers' pre-season trip to the Netherlands after sustaining an ankle ligament injury in a friendly at Colchester last weekend.

Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds United manager, currently linked with anything that moves now that the Caspian Group's takeover of the club has been completed, has failed to lure Bayern Munich's Swiss international midfielder, Ciriaco Sforza, to the club. Sforza has instead opted to move to Italy's Internazionale.

Neville Southall's 15-year career with Everton appears to be over after he commenced talks yesterday with the Wolves manager, Mark McGhee. The 37-year-old Welsh international is unsettled at Goodison Park after the Everton manager, Joe Royle, paid pounds 1.5m for Oldham's goalkeeper Paul Gerrard last week.

Stevenage Borough finally had to give up their legal fight for promotion to the Football League yesterday after defeat in the Court of Appeal. The Vauxhall Conference champions were barred by Football League rules from automatic promotion at the end of last season because their stadium facilities were not up to required standard seven months ago.

St Mirren's chief executive, Bob Earlie, has rejected suggestions that the club are facing debts that threaten the future of the club - but they may have to go part-time.

Fabrizio Ravanelli made his debut for Middlesbrough last night in an exhibition match at his former club, Juventus. TheEuropean champions won 2-1 and Ravanelli had a quiet game, going close only with a 76th-minute free-kick which flashed just wide. Christian Vieri gave the Italian side a 35th-minute lead with a low shot from 20 yards past Alan Miller. The Italian international Alessandro Del Piero struck from long range in the 50th minute; Nigel Pearson headed in a corner five minutes from the end for Middlesbrough's goal.