Threatened Players Strike

11 Aug

Oh dear. A players’ strike may be on the horizon. Here’s a couple of articles that surfaced this afternoon.  This looks potentially serious and could delay the season kick off.

Spanish football players threaten strike
By Al Goodman, CNN

August 11, 2011 9:40 a.m. EDT

Madrid, Spain (CNN) — Football players from Spain’s top two divisions vowed to go on strike at the start of the season if the team owners don’t provide “guarantees” that hundreds of players who are owed back wages are actually paid, the players association announced on Thursday.
“We’re not asking for more money. We’re just asking to be paid what’s due,” Juanjo Montener, spokesman for the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) told CNN.

Association leaders, flanked by some of Spain’s top football stars, such as Real Madrid goalie Iker Casillas and FC Barcelona defender Carles Puyol, held a news conference at a central Madrid hotel, vowing to strike but leaving the door open to further talks to try to resolve the dispute before the season opener scheduled for August 20.

But the Professional Football League (LFP), representing the clubs in first and second division football, issued a statement soon after saying it “doesn’t understand” the players’ call to strike.

The club owners said they had been negotiating in “good faith” with the players association and that club owners on August 3 established a new “guarantee fund” that would “guarantee some important quantities of the salaries of players affected” by club bankruptcy proceedings.

Montener said 22 Spanish football clubs in first and second division have had financial problems serious enough to involve bankruptcy or receivership proceedings. He said 300 players have filed complaints that they are owed back wages.

Spain’s first division “Liga” is among the best in the world, and top players from South America and elsewhere in Europe often have lucrative contracts here. FC Barcelona is currently considered the best club team in the world, having won last May its second Champions League title in the past three years, again beating Manchester United for that title. Real Madrid is a perennial powerhouse and a potent global brand.

But below that top tier, it’s a different story for many other clubs. Spanish media have reported for months about some other first division and many second division teams that have struggled to avoid financial red ink.

A three-year collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players expired recently and negotiations since then have been focused on a new deal.

The strike call by the players comes as Spain continues to be mired in a deep economic crisis, with 21 percent unemployment overall and a jobless rate of about 43 percent for young people. The Socialist government has called for early elections, scheduled for November.

LFP responds to AFE’s La Liga strike threat with disbelief
By Rob Paton
Thursday 11 August 2011

Jose Luis Astiazaran, President of the Spanish League, Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP), has responded to his counterpart Luis Rubiales of the Spanish Footballers’ Association (AFE), in the wake of his announcement that the players intend to go on strike.

 In protest at talks having broken down between the LFP and AFE over collective agreements in player contracts, the AFE’s Rubiales, with the support of some high-profile League players, announced today their intention to refuse to play the opening two rounds of the Primera and Segunda Division. With a round of international matches to be played on September 2 and 6, this would effectively push back the season’s start date to September 11.

 The dispute centres predominantly on the AFE seeking assurances that money owed in unpaid wages to as many as 200 footballers – put at €50m by Rubialas today – should be guaranteed by the League. The League have reportedly only offered to guarantee for €7m of that, whilst the issue of clubs repeating the scenario of not paying players also remains in the air, along with other details such as player holiday and image rights. Talks broke down on Monday, and the AFE have subsequently stated through Rubialas that they will not begin the League until the dispute is settled.

 Astiazaran responded to that stance in an interview with Europa Press: “I do not understand why the AFE calls for a strike, there are no reasons to call it at this time. We have two months working with them to set up a new collective agreement, and have already approved two important issues for relations with the players and other members of the football family.”

 The LFP’s President pointed to the AFE being in agreement with July 12’s introduction of the Reglamento de Control Económico – a procedure put in place to safeguard clubs’ economic structure and running through strict regulations that if broken will now result in sporting penalties.

 He also spoke of the ‘great effort’ made by the League to introduce the wage guarantee fund in light of the global economic situation, one that will protect the first €240,000 of a Liga BBVA player’s contract, and the first €120,000 of a Liga Adelante player’s contract, should their club enter administration.

 Astiazaran went on to say that the two groups had held ‘almost daily’ talks, and that those discussions towards drafting a new agreement were ‘on track’. The threat of strike action has left him talking of ‘a very difficult situation’ inasmuch as implying the League cannot raise their offer to guarantee all of clubs’ current combined debts owed to players. He also stated any strike action will not advance the decision-making process.

“We will continue to try to find ways to reach an agreement. [This] week is not going to break a relationship that we are looking to build for another four years, but it is not acceptable that there is a strike call. We have worked hard through negotiations.”

This is not the first time the LFP and AFE have clashed. Last December the players threatened legal action over a dispute regarding the scheduling of fixtures on January 2, a date they believed was an agreed holiday from a previous collective agreement signed between the groups.

Spanish footballers call strike action
By h.b. – Aug 11, 2011 – 3:01 PM

The strike call comes for the first two games of the new season in the first and second divisions  

The Spanish Football Players Association, the AFE, has called strike action following the lack of agreement with the Professional Football League, LFP, over the wage round.
‘The league will not start until the new collective wage deal is signed’, said the President of the AFE, José Luis Rubiales.

Such a strike would stop all first and second division games.
The dispute has arisen because the AFE wants the LFP to create a ‘wage guarantee fund’ which would cover payments of 50 million € owed to first and second division players, and also wants to see clubs which have not paid their players to be sanctioned.

Some players across the country have accumulated long delays in wages being paid, and the AFE claims it is being supported by players unions in countries such as Germany, Italy, Portugal, France and Holland. They say that last season ended with 50 million owed to more than 200 players.

The LFP says that they want players to workout days they play for the National team as holiday time, and for them to all hand over their personal image rights. They say the AFE claims are ‘incomprehensible’ especially as the strike call comes after two months of talks.

Meanwhile there has been considerable debate about new times of games which have been announced for the new season.

Jaume Roures, the CEO of Mediapro has admitted that no Real Madrid or Barcelona games will start at 12 noon, one of the new times introduced this season. He justified that by saying that they are ‘superior establishments’ and that they have enormous stadia and no tradition of playing at such a time.

The playing times for the first match of the season, if the strike does not go ahead, will be:-

Saturday 20 August
18.00: RCD Espanyol-Granada CF.
18.00: Levante UD-Real Zaragoza.
20.00: Villarreal CF-Real Sporting de Gijón.
22.00: CA Osasuna-Valencia CF (partido en abierto).

Sunday 21 August
12.00: Rayo Vallecano-RCD Mallorca.
16.00: Racing de Santander-Getafe CF.
18.00: Real Madrid-Athletic Club de Bilbao.
20.00: Málaga CF-FC Barcelona.
22.00: Real Betis-Sevilla FC.

Monday 22 August
21.00: Real Sociedad-Atlético de Madrid.

5 Responses to “Threatened Players Strike”

  1. Allison August 11, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Oh no! That would be a shame, but if Puyol and Casillas are for it then I trust that it’s the right thing for the players to do.

    • headbandsandheartbreak August 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      Yeah, having Iker and Puyi there adds a lot of weight and sends a clear message.

  2. Dylan August 11, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    It’s probably the right thing for the players to do seeing as clubs are continuing to spend silly money on new players when they already owe current and previous players money, but I doubt it’ll go ahead. This sort of thing has happened before and they always say there’ll be a strike then the talks continue right up until when the strikes are supposed to begin and they suddenly decide they won’t. I’ll be surprised if even the first week of strikes go ahead.

    Then again, a rest for the boys after the games in such quick succession over these few weeks would be nice 😉

  3. Susie August 13, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    I understand them wanting to strike but if the bigger clubs are that worried, why not take a pay cut and spread that money around? Or why not do something about the rights with tv networks in airing the smaller teams’ games or how the league is pretty much a 2 horse race.

    • headbandsandheartbreak August 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

      I don’t there is any way in hell you could get the bigger clubs to take a pay cut, but the TV rights thing is a big sticking point.

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