MILAN - The Italian footballers'
association has called a strike for the top-flight Serie A
matches on September 25 and 26, dealing a blow to league bosses who
had hoped to curtail player power in the modern game.
The strike is over the lack of a collective contract between
the trade union and the clubs guaranteeing players' basic
The association is also unhappy with clubs trying to force
its members to move teams before the end of their contracts when
they are no longer required.
Fans, pundits, federation officials, governments and club
owners across the football world have long complained about the
vast amount of money top soccer players earn for what many young
people would choose to do for free if they had the chance.
The idea of player power has entered the football vocabulary
in recent years especially when it comes to footballers
demanding or more often than not getting transfers to bigger
clubs despite being contracted to another team.
Now the boot is on the other foot and it is the players in
Serie A who feel they are "being treated like objects" by clubs
who tell them they are no longer wanted and try to force them to
move teams irrespective of having a contract.
The proposed strike and the fallout could lead to detailed
changes in how football contracts work, much like the Bosman case
which allowed players to walk away from a club once their
Some Serie A club bosses want to be able to rip up the final
year of an underperforming or overly expensive player's contract
and only pay him 50 percent of what he would have been due that
season to make him leave for another club.
But players who see out their contracts despite barely
playing, accused by detractors of picking up huge cheques for no
work, believe the law is on their side.
The strike could have implications for other football and
sports leagues all over the world. The Italian players'
association, which has held strikes in the distant past, has
recently talked of striking again over a series of disputes but
they were often viewed as empty threats.
Now the strike looks set to go ahead, with AC Milan defender
and association member Massimo Oddo saying it will definitely
happen, Serie A players have sent a powerful message that they
can cripple a multi-million dollar industry just like that.
It could encourage other disaffected player unions to seek
similar action, with industrial disputes being largely confined
to American sports like NHL in recent years.
The financial impact of the strike on Serie A, which broke
away from the rest of the Italian league at the start of the
season, could be sizeable.
Television broadcasters and sponsors will not be amused and
any threats of further strike action could further paralyse the
league, which has only just recovered from a 2006 match-fixing
scandal which seriously damaged the brand.
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