Spanish league on strike alert

BARCELONA - Spain's professional soccer league (LFP) has called for calm and dialogue to avert possible industrial action later this month by the players' union (AFE) over unpaid wages.

BARCELONA - Spain's professional soccer league (LFP) has called for calm and dialogue to avert possible industrial action later this month by the players' union (AFE) over unpaid wages.

The AFE said on Monday that it wanted a "grand pact for soccer" between players, clubs, the federation and the government that would satisfy their demands or they would stage a strike across the top four tiers of the league between April 16 and 19.

If it goes ahead, the action will affect the matches between La Liga leaders Real Madrid and third-placed Valencia, and champions Barcelona and city rivals Espanyol, among others.

The LFP said yesterday such a move would damage the credibility of Spanish soccer, hurt clubs and players and place additional strain on a calendar that was already tight because of this year's World Cup.

"We are convinced that with calm, dialogue and compromise from all concerned we can avoid such negatives," it said.

Under new president Luis Rubiales, the AFE is taking a more aggressive approach to helping players get cash they are owed by financially struggling clubs, especially those in the third and fourth tiers.

Spiralling wage and transfer costs have tipped many clubs into the red and second division side Albacete, currently one spot above the relegation places, became the latest to go into administration on Monday.

The AFE said on Monday that a large majority of their members backed Monday's threat.

"If we have to go on strike we are all united," defender Manuel Pablo, captain of La Liga club Deportivo Coruna, was quoted as saying in Marca sports daily yesterday.

Carlos Suarez, president of Real Valladolid, told Marca the players were partly to blame for the situation. "A large proportion of the inflation that is hurting the clubs is the fault of the players, who have dropped down into lower divisions with very lucrative contracts and try to keep the same level of income," he said. - Reuters

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