League warns players' union against striking

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The Professional Footballers' Association have been accused of manufacturing a show of strength that could throw the Football League season into strike chaos.

Pat Nevin, the PFA's chairman, fired the opening shots as the deadline for a ballot to take industrial action passed at lunchtime yesterday, but the Scotland and Tranmere winger was met by an instant riposte from angry League officials, who claim the union's unbending stance over television cash is an act of brinkmanship that could backfire on the players.

"The outcome of the ballot is entirely predictable," the League spokesman, Chris Hull, said. "The players, as an act of blind faith, will give the PFA a mandate to take industrial action. But we feel that the announcement of the result of the ballot on Saturday will be utilised by the PFA as a public relations exercise. They want to flex their muscles and, as a result, the issue will be turned into a media circus.

"But the PFA should also be aware of the consequences of persisting with this line of action because it could prove harmful for many of their members. And although the PFA will be given their mandate, whether they intend to use it is another matter."

Union leaders expect to be given overwhelming support by their members as they look to secure the 10 per cent levy that has been traditionally paid to them from cash generated by television screening rights.

The League have countered that the old agreement is archaic in light of the recent pounds 25m deal struck with Sky TV.

With the chief executive, Gordon Taylor, and his deputy, Brendon Batson, at a meeting of European football unions' in Athens, it was left to Nevin to defend the PFA's stance during an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live.

"A few weeks ago the Football League decided to renege on the 10 per cent deal. That money goes into things like the education fund, benevolent fund and insurance fund," Nevin said. "Last time we had a ballot five years ago on the Premier League, or Division One as it was then, we had over 90 per cent backing. The players generally trust the union."

He added that the League had made no moves to accommodate the players' demands. "As soon as we get the mandate, the Football League will realise that we are not playing games any more. The brinkmanship has been taken right to the end."

The League have declared their intention to seek an injunction blocking strike action, insisting players would be contravening industrial legislation.