Friday, September 10, 2010

Serie A - Italian footballers to go on strike

On September 10, the players of the Serie A - Italy's top-flight football league - declared they would go on strike on September 25-6.

AC Milan defender Massimo Oddo - speaking on behalf of the Italian Players' Association (AIC) - made the declaration as part of an ongoing dispute over the renewal of the collective contract for the game's top players.

The statement - signed by the captains and union representatives of all 20 Serie A clubs - read:

"The association, in perfect symphony with the players of Serie A, has decided not to go on the field for the fifth round of matches of the Serie A championship in protest against requests to impose new contractual rules,"

The football league, Lega Serie A, is attempting to introduce a new collective contract that would strip players of their existing transfer rights and bring larger profits to football clubs and their owners, at the players' expense.

Under the previous collective agreement - which ran out on June 30 - senior players in the Serie A were free to negotiate or refuse offers to transfer to other clubs, and could negotiate a transfer at the end of their contract largely free of interference from their current club.

The new proposals would enable clubs to force players in the final year of their contract to transfer to other Serie A clubs, bringing their old club a tidy profit in transfer fees, or force them to renegotiate their contract or cut a deal.

Another point of contention was the issue of players' minimum salaries. The Lega has proposed "flexible contracts", with a lower basic salary that could be "topped up" only if a team reached certain - ill-defined - targets.

According to the new proposed rules, clubs can also force a player to make exclusive use of the club medical team. If the player seeks outside medical assistance he will be made to pay the costs himself.

The Lega has been stalling on negotiations, ignoring the players who have only discovered many of the proposed new clauses by reading the newspapers. The players have rejected these proposed changes, and believe they should be party to negotiating any new collective agreement.

Lega Serie A broke away from the rest of the Italian league in July, with club bosses attempting to maximise the commercial potential - particularly television rights - of Italy's top flight league in a manner not unlike the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

In this context, the move to strip players of rights and income is hardly surprising. President of Palermo football club, Maurizio Zamparini, described the strike as "ridiculous", and even called on the Lega to institute a lockout until the players backed down.

Oddo pointed out that the players' decision had been considered for quite some time, after the Lega refused to respond to their overtures for genuine negotiations.

"We players are fed up of being treated like objects and not human beings," said Oddo. "We are talking about human rights, such as being denied the right to do other activities or work rights."

A meeting is planned for September 13 between the presidents of Italy's football federation, Lega A and the AIC, but Oddo warned that "the strike is likely to take place regardless of the decision that could come out of Monday's meeting".

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