Norway's topflight footballers strike over boots

Norway's topflight footballers strike over boots

Published May. 20, 2011 3:02 p.m. ET

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.