Why the first week of Serie A never happened

by Dylan Fahy

Rumours had been floating around Italy for the best part of two weeks, but it was assumed by everyone that the Italian Players’ Union (AIC) and the Italian Clubs’ Union (LEGA) would sign collective bargaining agreement meaning that Serie A players would not go on strike for week one. Fans and pundits alike started to get worried when, with only a few days to go until the first scheduled match, no agreement was in place.

Fears were finally confirmed, when on Friday 26 August, the strike action was to go ahead. Essentially meaning everybody had to wait another two weeks, because of an international break in between, for the start of Serie A. Unlike the Spanish, who had a much more serious situation, the stereotypical Italian disorganization failed to use their common sense to put their differences behind them. There was talk back in December that the two sides were close to reaching an agreement. The fact that it made it this far is scandalous, as there threatened strikes back then were resolved with last-ditch negotiations.

The blame has to lie firmly with the LEGA,  as the AIC signed contracts numerous times but the they failed to reach an agreement. The general consensus being that LEGA were in no position to bargain, and the head of the AIC Damiano Tommassi has been open to compromise. The LEGA are also full of old heads with designer suits, while Tommassi is a young guy with a ‘new’ mentality that perhaps challenges old ways. Instead of really dealing with the issues both of the parties went on an Italian talk show to debate it. When the League Presidents voted on whether to sign the agreement it was rejected by a margin of eighteen heads to two. AC Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani even claimed ‘if necessary we can wait until December’.

It started to get out of hand when the AIC claimed that the strike would continue to week two if an agreement was not reached. Eventually news came through that a temporary agreement lasting until the end of the 2011-2012 season was signed by both parties. A statement was made;

An agreement was signed today by FIGC (Italian FA) president Giancarlo Abete, Lega A president Maurizio Beretta and AIC president Damiano Tommasi for the new collective bargaining agreement. The contract will expire in June 2012.

Serie A fans as a whole took a collective sigh of relief. This meant that the first game of the season was going to be current champions Milan against Lazio at the San Siro.

The agreement mainly centred around the new ‘solidarity’ tax and whether a club can drop players from training with the first team.

Solidarity tax was introduced by the Italian government as one of the new austerity measures, and many high earners around the peninsula agreed to helping out. The AIC argued that the clubs should pay instead of the players, because the current contracts the players hold would be broken. While LEGA firmly believed that the essence of solidarity tax is that the players should pay up for the benefit of the country.

The other sticking point was on the way in which clubs can drop players from training with the first team. With reasons being because they have fallen out with member of staff or because they are not longer needed. This would be a way of forcing a player to leave instead of sitting on a lucrative contract. A notable example of this last season being Antonio Cassano being dropped at Sampdoria after insulting the Club President Riccardo Garrone. The AIC saw this as completely unfair, while LEGA saw it as taking away authority from the manager.

Many conspicuously theorists believe that some club presidents wanted the season to be delayed as a sort of a protest of their own at the fixtures they were handed. An example of this being Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis, who stormed out of the building where the draw of fixtures for the Serie A season took place swearing and claiming it was a fixed. As it happens Napoli got tough matches with top six teams on the weekends after Champions League games mid-week. De Laurentiis proceeded to put his hand out and stop and innocent passing moped driver, hop on the back, and drive away.

Overall the negotiations have driven everyone involved in Italian football insane, and the fact that the deal signed is only temporary makes it even worse. It basically means that we could have a repeat of this fiasco next season. No body benefits from the strike, as the fans get angry, the players get unfit and the league and presidents lose money. Hopefully common sense will pro-veil, but somehow I highly doubt it.

Week Two Results:

AC Milan 2-2 Lazio

Cesena 1-3 Napoli

Juventus 4-1 Parma

Chievo 2-2 Novara

Fiorentina 2-0 Bologna

Genoa 2-2 Atalanta

Lecce 0-2 Udinese

AS Roma 1-2 Cagliari

Catania 0-0 Siena

Palermo 4-3 Internazionale

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