Pay dispute hits Danish national soccer team

Christian Eriksen and Kasper Schmeichel are among the players that could miss Denmark’s upcoming matches against Slovakia and Wales because of a pay dispute over commercial rights.

The Danish soccer association, known as the DBU, is attempting to find a new group of players, featuring those from Denmark’s lower divisions, to replace the original squad so the country can fulfil its obligations and avoid potential sanctions from UEFA.

Negotiations have collapsed between the players’ union and the DBU over a collective agreement. The union says players want sponsorship deals to continue to focus on the team and not individual players.

Eriksen, Denmark’s top midfielder who plays for Tottenham in the Premier League, said his teammates are vowing to “stand together as a team.”

“We feel a lot of support,” Eriksen said in comments published by the players’ union. “We know that all players understand that we are looking for a collective agreement for Danish football. We are fighting in our negotiations for our fundamental rights, also for future national team players — and not for more money.”

The players had offered, via their union, to extend their current contract by one month to allow time for more negotiations, but the Danish soccer federation rejected the offer.

“The DBU has offered to accommodate the players in some of these circumstances,” the federation said in a statement, adding that it had offered “improved” terms so the original squad can play the two games. “But even after that, it has not been possible to reach agreement.”

The federation was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Denmark coach Age Hareide has reportedly returned to his native Norway and his deputy, Jon Dahl Tomasson, could also be missing for the friendly match against Slovakia on Wednesday and the UEFA Nations League group game against Wales on Sunday.

“The crucial thing is now that the two national matches will be played,” DBU president Jesper Moller said. “The board has therefore asked DBU’s management that the two international matches will be played with the strongest possible team. Otherwise, we risk major fines and possible exclusion from UEFA.”

Last year, Denmark’s women’s team signed a four-year collective bargaining agreement with the federation, ending a dispute that saw the cancellation of a World Cup qualifier.