ROME (AP) – The players say the league isn't interested in negotiating. The league says the fault is entirely with the players.
Italian football was in complete chaos Friday as Serie A players declared a strike that will delay the start of the season, which was scheduled for Saturday.
''There's a lot of bitterness, because the conditions were there to avoid this strike,'' said Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete, who has been acting as a mediator in the conflict. ''It appears incomprehensible considering the problems at the center of the discussion.''
All 20 Serie A captains signed a document this month threatening a strike if a new collective contract was not signed before the season, and weeks of negotiations produced no resolution.
The main conflicts are over two clauses the clubs want - one that would allow them to force unwanted players to train away from the first team and another that would make players pay a new government solidarity tax that applies to high-wage earners.
Under the government's new 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).
''The strike is ridiculous, both on the players' part and the league's part,'' said Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini, who has fired some 30 coaches in his 24 years in the sport.
With a break for international matches over the weekend of Sept. 3-4, the strike could delay the start of the season until Sept. 10-11 - or beyond.
''As far as our side goes we don't have anything to be ashamed about. It's the league that sought the rupture,'' players' association president Damiano Tommasi said. ''And now 15 days might not be enough. The impression is that it will take months (to find a resolution).''
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.
The clubs voted 18-2 on Wednesday to reject the players' proposal, with only Siena and Cagliari voting in favor of the players' version.
Tommasi offered earlier Friday for the league to sign a temporary contract until June 2012 - without the two additional clauses the clubs want. But the league quickly rejected his proposal.
''We didn't want all this but if the league says 'No' no matter what, there's nothing else we can do,'' said Tommasi, who issued his strike proclamation just as clubs were due to begin traveling to matches.
Serie A president Maurizio Beretta said accepting Tommasi's last-minute proposal would have meant taking a step backward. He called the strike ''a useless display of muscle'' and said the blame should be ''exclusively one-sided - on those who decided to strike.''
A strike by Spanish club players wiped out the opening weekend of La Liga, although a deal was reached on Thursday to ensure the second round goes ahead this weekend.
''One thing is for certain: We need to do what they did in Spain and limit the protest to just one round,'' Abete said. ''We've got to work toward a solution right away.''
If the Italian strike lasts only a round or two, missed matches will likely be made up at a later date.
Still, cabinet undersecretary and sports delegate Rocco Crimi said the public will see it as ''the most unusual strike'' in Italy's history, adding that both sides need to calm down, lower their voices and work toward a deal.
The strike will likely cost players a week's worth of salary, which comes out to an average of ?23,650 ($34,000) per player, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport. AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the highest paid player in the league at ?9 million ($13 million) per season, stands to lose ?304,600 ($440,000).
Serie A was due to start on Saturday with Fiorentina at Siena in a Tuscan derby and defending champion AC Milan at Cagliari. On Sunday, it was: Napoli vs. Genoa; Atalanta vs. Cesena; Bologna vs. Roma; Inter Milan vs. Lecce; Lazio vs. Chievo Verona; Novara vs. Palermo; Parma vs. Catania; and Udinese vs. Juventus.
For the second round Sept. 10-11, it's: Catania vs. Siena; Cesena vs. Napoli; Chievo Verona vs, Novara; Fiorentina vs. Bologna; Genoa vs. Atalanta; Juventus vs. Parma; Lecce vs. Udinese; AC Milan vs. Lazio; Palermo vs. Inter Milan; and Roma vs. Cagliari.
Milan opens the Champions League against last season's winner Barcelona on Sept. 13, while Inter faces Turkish club Trabzonspor and Napoli visits Manchester City a day later.
The strike means Italy's international players will face the Faeroe Islands and Slovenia in European Championship qualifiers on Sept. 2 and 6 without any league matches in preparation.
The only other players' strike in Serie A history was in March 1996, and regarded issues including the Bosman ruling, which established the right of players to switch clubs freely once their contracts expired, and found that the strict limits on foreigners were illegal.