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AFE and LFP remain 'very distant' in negotiations as La Liga strike looms

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By Rob Paton

Wednesday 17 August 2011

The Spanish League’s (LFP) President José Luis Astiazarán, has given his reaction to today’s unsuccessful meeting with the Spanish Footballers’ Association (AFE) that looks set to delay the start of the Primera Division.

“It is hard to have the strike, but we cannot give more than we already have. We must be accountable to the compromises we adopt and establish systems to ensure that in the medium term, this does not become a source of conflict with the AFE.”

Talks did not progress far enough to avert the AFE's proposed strike action for this weekend's opening fixtures, with it now believed that the next scheduled meeting for Friday is too late to go back on the decision. The deadline for calling off the strike and returning to preparations for Week 1's games is 12pm Thursday.

The LFP President criticised the AFE’s tactics, saying they had ‘strained their relationship’ with the LFP, by showing ‘more harshness’ in their tactics for negotiating their demands from the past two months: “In calling for a strike, AFE has very much tightened the rope. Of course, in only one meeting to find agreement on all the issues that have divided us in all the meetings that we had in the past, is complex and difficult.

“We haven't reached any kind of agreement. The AFE [union] have dug their heels in. The differences between the us are important, but we have to move forward. In recent months we have made some very important agreements in the organisation of the League. We adopted a system of economic control that is along the same lines as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play initiative [the Reglamento de Control Económico criteria] and also a guarantee to provide significant payments to players who find their club enter financial difficulty.”

However, it is the latter policy that is proving one of the sticking points in negotiations. The AFE are looking for the €50m worth of wages Luis Rubiales claims is currently owed to more than 200 players to be guaranteed by the League, along with a higher guarantee on future unpaid wages.

The League says it is offering as much as €70m to cover both what is already owed - up to €280,000 to every Primera player owed wages - and what might be in coming years - up to €240,000 annually to Primera Division players who find their club unable to pay their wages, and €120,000 for Segunda players in the same position - but Rubiales insists this is not enough.

Astiazarán appeared to also take another tact in addressing the Press on the matter: “It is not clear if it is 200 players or less that are owed money, but assume it is, then in a League of 1,000 players, this is 20% who find difficulty in being paid. However, compared with the 20% of Spain’s unemployment, they have a job. [The guaranteed payments to players whose clubs cannot pay them] are very large quantities that no employer guarantees its workers, and we have done so.”

The LFP President again stressed his displeasure at the strike action, but confirmed talks will continue over the weekend and week by week to find solutions between the groups he described as currently being ‘very distant’ from each other: “We have said we are always open to dialogue, and action is preferable to negotiate, but without pressure and force. We do not like a stage of negotiation where strike action is taken because it creates a scenario where both parties are not in the same position on the table.”

AFE manager Luis Gil - on behalf of the absent Rubiales - followed this in restating his union’s stance: “What we want to resolve is the current, very critical, situation and create corrective measures for the future so that we don’t have these kind of problems again.

“Our call for a strike is firm, it is the mandate of the players. We have to take care of and protect their interests, nobody here is asking for more money.”

The LFP and AFE meet again on Friday for the next round of talks, thought to be focused on avoiding the postponement of Week 2’s fixtures originally scheduled for August 28. Failure to find agreement today almost certainly means Week 1’s round of games that was originally set for this weekend will now be postponed and rescheduled for later in the calendar, or as the LFP are proposing, that the fixtures start from Week 1 as planned, but a week later, effectively shifting the first few weeks of the season back a week. The latter proposal will need ratification by the RFEF.

To make sure you don't miss any of A Different League's Spanish coverage this season, follow the La Liga dedicated Twitter feed: @differentliga

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