Serie A players to strike on Sept. 25-26
The Serie A season is facing the threat of early disruption after the Italian league's players called a strike for the weekend of Sept. 25-26 in a contract dispute.
The dispute centers around a proposal by club presidents to limit players from refusing transfers, as defender Fabio Grosso recently did with Juventus following an offer from AC Milan.
The strike coincides with the season's first high-profile match, with AS Roma scheduled to host Inter Milan on Sept. 25 in a meeting of the top two clubs from last season.
The clubs' proposal stipulates that when a player has a year remaining on his contract, he must accept a transfer to another, equally competitive club that guarantees the same financial treatment. If the player doesn't accept the transfer, he must come to a mutual contract resolution with the club, according to the proposal.
The strike was announced in a statement read by AC Milan defender Massimo Oddo, signed by the captains and union representatives of all 20 Serie A clubs.
Oddo said the strike ''will definitely go on, independent of the decisions taken in the next board meeting, and it will be extended if suitable agreements are not made,'' adding that the players ''are tired of being treated like objects and not like people.
''We're workers like everybody else. Having high salaries doesn't mean we should have fewer rights,'' Oddo said, accompanied by teammates Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Marco Amelia; plus Inter captain Javier Zanetti and Ivan Cordoba, among other players.
Serie A president Maurizio Beretta said the players had made a very ''extreme'' move by proclaiming a strike without discussing the matter first.
''The idea of coming to the table with a loaded gun and the bullet in the barrel is not the best way of trying to reach an accord,'' Beretta told state RAI TV. ''We're talking about 500-600 subjects with average salaries beyond ?1.5 million ($1.9 million).
''It's a terrible sign for all the other categories in this country facing very serious economic problems,'' Beretta added. ''Maybe the AIC would have done better to have waited for Monday's meeting to discuss the matter. I see a lot of inaccurate considerations that don't take into account the situations in other countries that we compare ourselves to.''
Players' association (AIC) president Sergio Campana said he hadn't seen the players take such ''a decisive and universal stand'' in years.
''There hasn't been any respect for the AIC considering that we've haven't been told anything and have had to read the news in the newspapers,'' Campana said, according to the ANSA news agency.
Campana said the AIC is also upset about players who are left off squads being kept out of summer training, as well as health issues, noting that previous contracts allowed players to choose their physician or surgeon and forced clubs to share the costs. Now, he said, the clubs want to force players to use physicians chosen by the clubs or eliminate the shared costs.
Campana added that Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete had called the parties to a meeting in Rome on Monday.
''We hope that there will be positive developments,'' Campana said.
Players also went on strike in March 1996 due to several issues, including 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.
Roma coach Claudio Ranieri said he hopes the strike can be avoided.
''I hope the parties' intelligence prevails so this doesn't end with a strike,'' Ranieri said.