08/17/2011 09:44 EDT | Updated 10/17/2011 05:12 EDT

Spanish soccer players move closer to strike after failing to reach agreement

BARCELONA, Spain - The start to the Spanish league soccer season looks increasingly likely to be delayed after the league and players failed to agree to a deal to avoid a work-stoppage.

The Association of Spanish Football Players (AFE) said they will not play in Saturday's first round unless a collective bargaining agreement is signed beforehand. The AFE and the league (LFP) met Wednesday but could not agree to a deal to guarantee payment of player salaries, the main sticking point.

LFP president Jose Luis Astiazaran said there remained "big differences" between the two sides "but we have to move forward. We've reached our breaking point. We can't give more than what we have."

The two sides will meet again Friday with players from 42 teams in the top two divisions ready to continue the work stoppage through the second round of games — Aug. 27-29 — if necessary. The league wouldn't begin until Sept. 10 if such a scenario occurred.

Players want better guarantees with clubs still owing up to 50 million euros (C$72 million) in unpaid salaries to more than 200 players.

There are currently six clubs in bankruptcy protection in Spain's top division, including all three recently promoted clubs. New legislation expected to pass in September will see clubs immediately relegated to the third division if they become insolvent.