Legal threat to halt strike

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The Independent Online
A ball has yet to be kicked in anger but already attitudes are hardening in football's contribution to an autumn of discontent.

After Gordon Taylor, the leader of the players' union, hinted yesterday that the prospect of footballers joining the Tube drivers and postal workers on a picket line was growing closer, the employers, the Nationwide League, struck back by threatening legal action. The League claim the dispute, over the distribution of television income, "falls outside" the legislative criteria allowing industrial action. They said they would go to court to prevent a strike.

The threat is likely to anger Taylor, a second-generation union man, who earlier criticised the football authorities for their "Victorian" approach to players. Taylor also warned the dispute may be the forerunner to a larger one with the Premier League. Taylor claimed their chief executive, Rick Parry, had been encouraging Nationwide's hard-line stance. The Premier League said that was "nonsense".

The PFA is considering strike action after the Football League threatened to give the union less than 10 per cent of their new pounds 25m television deal with BSkyB. Historically, the union have received 10 per cent of any TV monies. They reduced their share of the last deal to solve an impasse in negotiations.

Taylor, speaking at the launch of the 27th Rothmans Football Yearbook, said: "We have had a percentage of television income since players' rights were established for TV performances in the Fifties. The out-of-date attitude of the current dispute is symptomatic of problems in the game."

Taylor said he "feared" the consequence of the money coming into the game and its appropriation by the wealthiest segment. "The base of the pyramid is eroding; unless we are prepared to strengthen it there is no use throwing money at the apex. We must control the commercialisation of the game. Football is more fashionable than it has been at any time since I came into the game in 1960."

ROTHMAN'S TEAM OF THE SEASON: Schmeichel (Man U); G Neville (Man U), Bruce (Man U - now Birmingham), Southgate (Aston Villa), Irwin (Man U); Gullit (Chelsea), Keane, Cantona, Giggs (all Man U); Shearer (Blackburn - now Newcastle), Fowler (Liverpool). Substitutes: Scales, McManaman (both Liverpool), Ferdinand (Newcastle). Manager: Ferguson (Man U).