NEWS
08/25/2011 12:46 EDT | Updated 10/25/2011 05:12 EDT

Serie A rejects soccer federation rescue plan, keeping alive threat of players strike

ROME - The Italian soccer federation's last-minute attempts to avoid a Serie A players strike failed on Thursday when the clubs rejected a rescue measure, making it likely that Saturday's planned start to the season will be delayed.

To appease one of the players' gripes, federation president Giancarlo Abete offered 20 million euros (C$29 million) to cover extra costs for a new solidarity tax that applies to high-wage earners.

But Serie A president Maurizio Beretta said the clubs' stance remains unchanged and that they still want two changes to the collective contract proposed by the players, including a clause stating that the players will pay the solidarity tax.

Under the government's new austerity package, citizens face a five per cent additional tax on income above 90,000 euros ($128,250) and a 10 per cent additional tax on income above 150,000 euros ($213,750).

"There is no margin to negotiate," Beretta said.

The clubs also want a clause inserted that will allow coaches to force unwanted players to train away from the first team.

All 20 Serie A captains signed a document this month declaring that the players will strike if a new collective contract is not signed before the season opens.

"We've said it over the last few days and we'll say it again today: If the collective contract is not signed the players will not go out onto the pitch Saturday and Sunday," players' association president Damiano Tommasi told the ANSA news agency. "A minute after the deal is signed we'll be ready to play."

If the strike is carried out, players will likely lose a week's worth of salary, which comes out to an average of 23,650 euros ($34,000) per player. AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the highest paid player in the league at 9 million euros ($13 million) per season, stands to lose 304,600 euros ($440,000), according to the Gazzetta dello Sport.

It remains unclear if matches will eventually be made up at a later date if there is a strike.

The Italian Olympic Committee, which oversees all sports in Italy, called the situation "incomprehensible," adding in a statement that it is "severely worried about the damage and bewilderment that the postponement of the first round will create in the public opinion."

The conflict between the players and the league has been ongoing since the last collective contract expired in June 2010.

The players set two strike dates during the first half of last season, both of which were avoided with last-minute verbal agreements.

The clubs voted 18-2 Wednesday to reject the players' proposal, with only Siena and Cagliari voting in favour of the players' version.

Serie A is due to start on Saturday with Fiorentina at Siena in a Tuscan derby and defending champion AC Milan at Cagliari. On Sunday, it's: Napoli vs. Genoa; Atalanta vs. Cesena; Bologna vs. Roma; Inter Milan vs. Lecce; Lazio vs. Chievo Verona; Novara vs. Palermo; Parma vs. Catania; and Udinese vs. Juventus.

A strike by Spanish club players wiped out the opening weekend of the Liga, although a deal was reached Thursday to ensure the second round goes ahead this weekend.

While there have been numerous other threats over the years, the only time Serie A players went on strike was in March 1996. Among the issues then was the Bosman ruling, which established the right of players to switch clubs freely once their contracts expired, and found that the strict limits on foreigners were illegal.