Serie A rocked by strike plans

Serie A clubs were today left stunned by the announcement that the players in Italy's top flight will go on strike on the weekend of September 25-26.

The declaration was made by AC Milan captain Massimo Oddo on behalf of the Italian Players' Association (AIC), in response to the Lega Calcio's position on collective contract renewal.

The statement read: "The AIC, in complete agreement with all the Serie A clubs, have decided that these teams will not go out on the pitch for the fifth round of games of Serie A on September 25-26 in order to oppose the (Lega Calcio's) request for the introduction of a new contractual regime."

Oddo said the decision had been considered for some time.

"This decision comes from way back after we did not receive any response to our attempts to come to an agreement with the Lega," he said.

However, a number of club presidents were far from happy with the strike idea.

"It's the usual proof of force and I am not in agreement," said Genoa president Enrico Preziosi.

"Before one arrives at such a drastic decision, the parties have to meet and try to find a solution, an agreement.

"This is not good and I don't understand the reasons behind this as the collective contract has not been approved yet.

"It's true that it's also the fault of the clubs for having arrived at this point."

At issue is the collective contract between the association and the league, guaranteeing players' rights. It expired on June 30, but no action has been taken by the Lega Calcio since then.

The players believe they should be a party to any talks on the subject.

"Not for a long time have I witnessed such a decisive and universal stand taken by the players," said AIC president Sergio Campana today.

"The players have expressed their opinion regarding a conflict with the Lega, revealing there has not been any respect shown for the AIC considering that for some time now we have not received any official news and rather have to read it in the newspapers."

Serie A football has not been halted in this way since a players' strike that started on March 17, 1996, in protest against several issues including the Bosman ruling.

The main area of disagreement deals with what the players perceive as a lack of protection when clubs try to force them into a transfer when they enter the final year of their contracts.

Other controversial issues include flexible contracts - players having to accept less in their basic salary but looking to top it up if the team reach certain pre-defined targets.

"This is ridiculous," said Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini.

"We have come out with a project which we will sit down and discuss. If they (AIC) intend to start forcefully, I hope Italian football follows the example set by the NBA 10 years ago, does a lockout and sends them all home."

NBA owners forced a lockout in the 1998-99 campaign after the the players' union and the league could not agree over collective bargaining contracts.

That season was supposed to begin at the end of October but did not start until January.

Lega Calcio president Mario Beretta will meet Italian Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete and his AIC counterpart on Monday to discuss the strike threat.

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