MILAN – The Italian players' association is standing firm with its threat to strike if a new collective contract is not signed before the start of Serie A this weekend.
''The fact is that the season cannot start without a collective contract,'' players' association president Damiano Tommasi said Monday after meeting with players from all 20 clubs. ''We're hoping to start the season, because that would mean we will have signed the contract.''
Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete was set to hold a news conference later to address the main sticking point: a proposal that would allow clubs to force players no longer wanted to train away from the first team or accept a transfer.
The conflict between the players and the league has been ongoing since the last collective contract expired in June 2010.
The players set two strike dates during the first half of last season, both of which were avoided with last-minute verbal agreements.
Tommasi added that the players would pay a new tax that applies to high-wage earners, recently imposed by the government as part of its austerity package.
Citizens face a 5 percent additional tax on income above €90,000 ($128,250) and a 10 percent additional tax on income above €150,000 ($213,750).
Last week, Italian Cabinet Minister Roberto Calderoli lamented that the players are spoiled and should have the tax doubled.
''No player ever said he wouldn't pay the solidarity tax,'' Tommasi said, adding that the controversy was deliberately created to hurt the players. ''When it becomes applicable the players will have no problem paying this tax just like they've always done.''