Norway’s topflight footballers strike over boots

Nearly 100 of Norway’s topflight football players went on strike

Friday demanding the right to choose their own boots and other

equipment.

The strike, affecting nine of the league’s teams including

leader Tromsoe, forced the Norwegian football association to

postpone matches scheduled for Sunday and Monday.

Unlike most other European countries, Norway’s top-division

players must use boots and goalkeeper’s gloves provided by their

club’s sponsors. The clubs say disrupting those sponsorship deals

would cause extensive harm to their finances.

The players claim the rules are unfair and say picking their own

gear would improve their performance and help prevent injuries.

They are also demanding limits to clubs’ ability to terminate

player contracts.

The players’ union left talks aimed at resolving the dispute

Friday, with union boss Joachim Walltin saying in a statement that

the clubs ”showed little will to meet the demands of our

members.”

The chief negotiator for the clubs, Bjoern Tangnes, told The

Associated Press that the two sides couldn’t agree on the boots

issue.

The strike affects 95 players for Brann, Fredrikstad, Molde,

Sogndal, Start, Tromsoe, Viking, Vaalerenga and Aalesund. It

doesn’t include 22-time Norwegian champion Rosenborg, the Nordic

country’s most decorated club.

The union said players on strike cannot practice or play

competitively for their club, but are free to play for the national

team.

It is the second time Norwegian players go on strike, following

a similar action in 2002. This season, there was a threat of strike

actions in both Italy’s Serie A and the Spanish league, but both

were averted.

Top Spanish clubs announced a strike after a dispute over TV

revenue, but a judge ruled that league games must go on. In Italy,

the players’ association withdrew its threat of a strike after

reaching a deal for a new collective labor agreement.

FIFPro, an international umbrella organization for football

unions, said players are free to choose their own equipment in most

countries around the world.

”We only know about Norway and Sweden as countries that oblige

players to use the supplied equipment,” FIFPro lawyer Wil van

Megen said.

”FIFPro is of the opinion that each player must have the

freedom to choose his own equipment, be it shoes or gloves,” he

said. ”He has to use it every day and must feel very comfortable

with it.”

The Norwegian dispute also involves ice hockey and handball

players, but they’re not going on strike because their league

seasons have already ended.