LONDON (AP) – Italian soccer officials were holding meetings on Wednesday to try and avert a threatened strike by Serie A players.
The players say they will strike if a new collective contract is not signed before the season opens on Saturday.
Club presidents were hoping the players will accept a slight change to the controversial article 7, which would allow clubs to force players no longer wanted to train away from the first team or accept a transfer.
The clubs also want a clause inserted stating that players will pay a new solidarity tax that applies to high-wage earners, recently imposed by the government as part of its austerity package.
''We're ready to write the definitive text this afternoon and I think we're very close to signing the agreement,'' Serie A president Maurizio Beretta said. ''But it will require constructive will and a little effort from both sides.''
Players association president Damiano Tommasi, however, didn't appear so sure an agreement was near.
''I'm expecting a very lively meeting,'' Tommasi said before entering the soccer federation's offices.
The issue between the players and the league has been ongoing since the previous 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.
Serie A is due to start on Saturday with Fiorentina at Siena in a Tuscan derby and defending champion AC Milan at Cagliari. On Sunday, it's: 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.
A strike by Spanish club players has already wiped out the opening weekend of the Liga.
While there have been numerous other threats over the years, the only time Serie A players went on strike was in March 1996. Among the issues then was 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.