Strike could delay Spanish league start

Updated: August 17, 2011, 9:44 AM ET
Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain -- The start to the Spanish league soccer season looks increasingly likely to be delayed after the league and players failed to agree to a deal to avoid a work stoppage.

The Association of Spanish Football Players (AFE) said athletes will not play in Saturday's first round unless a collective bargaining agreement is signed beforehand. The AFE and the league (LFP) met Wednesday but could not agree to a deal to guarantee payment of player salaries, the main sticking point.

LFP president Jose Luis Astiazaran said there remained "big differences" between the two sides "but we have to move forward. We've reached our breaking point. We can't give more than what we have."

"It's a shame since we agree on 80 percent of the issues but because of 20 percent we find ourselves in this situation," Astiazaran said. "We've achieved a lot lately ... but it will be impossible to avoid a strike."

The two sides will meet again Friday with players from 42 teams in the top two divisions ready to continue the work stoppage through the second round of games -- Aug. 27-29 -- if necessary. The league wouldn't begin until Sept. 10 in such a scenario.

Players want better guarantees with clubs still owing up to $72 million in unpaid salaries to more than 200 players.

"The league does not want to bridge the gap," AFE representative Luis Gil said. "In this moment, the AFE has no intentions of extending the strike beyond the second round of games. But clubs who do not pay should be relegated."

There are six clubs in bankruptcy protection in Spain's top division, including all three recently promoted clubs. Legislation expected to pass in September would immediately relegate clubs to the third division if they become insolvent.

It would be the fourth league strike, but first since 1984.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press