Thu, Aug 18, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Spanish top-flight players threaten a strike over wages

AFP, MADRID

Negotiations appeared to be close to collapse in the dispute between Spain’s top soccer clubs and the players’ association, which has threatened to strike at the start of the season over wage guarantees.

A meeting was scheduled yesterday between the Professional Football League (LFP), which represents clubs in the top two divisions, and the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) to try and reach an agreement.

However, a spokesman for the AFE said it was uncertain whether the association’s representatives would attend.

“We had proposed a meeting today, Tuesday, which the [LFP] totally ignored,” he said.

Then “we received a summons for tomorrow morning. Faced with this unilateral summons, we are therefore still thinking about whether we will show up or not,” he added.

AFE chairman Luis Rubiales said last week that the players from Spain’s top two divisions had decided to go on strike for the first two days of the season, which starts on Saturday.

The AFE is in dispute with the LFP over unpaid salaries by some indebted clubs.

It is demanding a wage guarantee and that players be allowed to break their contracts if they are not paid for three consecutive months.

“What we are asking for from the League is that the wages of footballers be guaranteed, which is far from the case now,” the AFE spokesman said. “A lot of Spanish clubs which have filed for bankruptcy protection do not pay their players, and with complete impunity.”

He said 200 players are concerned by the issue in the top two divisions, and the total of unpaid salaries is now around 50 million euros (US$72 million).

The LFP voiced puzzlement over the strike call.

“The League does not understand the call for a strike by the AFE,” it said in a statement, arguing that it has also recently taken “historic measures in response to the requests of Spanish players.”

First division side Racing Santander went into bankruptcy protection last month with debts that included unpaid wages of 11.2 million euros, just months after they were bought by Bahrain-based Indian tycoon Ahsan Ali Syed.

Real Zaragoza applied to go into administration last summer, and Rayo Vallecano, who were promoted to the first division last season, are also in a precarious financial position.

The LFP itself had planned to strike towards the end of last season over broadcast rights.

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