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Spanish football players threaten strike

MADRID, Spain, August 12- Football players from Spain’s top two divisions, including millionaires like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, have decided to go on strike at the start of the season, the head of the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) announced Thursday.

The decision was taken after the AFE and the Professional Football League (LFP), which represents clubs in the two divisions, failed to reached a deal on wage guarantees for clubs that go insolvent, Luis Rubiales told a news conference.

“Footballers from the first and second divisions have taken the responsible, firm and unanimous decision to go on strike on the two first match days of the football season,” which starts on August 20.

“This does not mean that we are dropping all dialogue. We will continue with it for the good of the footballers and for the good of football, but the league will not begin until a new agreement is signed,” the AFE chairman said.

The players are in disagreement with the LFP over unpaid salaries by some indebted clubs.

“We condemn the failure of clubs to fulfill contracts they have signed with the players. Every day there are more. Fifty million euros, more than 200 footballers were involved over the years.

“The situation is deplorable. The values of sport have not been respected, the players cannot be asked to do more. Footballers don’t want more money, we want to fulfill our contracts, to cover debts and we all want to enjoy football in a healthy competitive environment.”

Rubiales was surrounded by about 100 players, including Spain captain Iker Casillas and other internationals such as as Carles Puyol, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Llorente and Santi Cazorla.

“We have asked that all players who are owed at least three months salary break their contracts,” but the proposal was shelved, he said.

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Various Spanish clubs have financial problems and have had trouble paying their players in recent months.

First division side Racing Santander went into bankruptcy protection in July with debts that included unpaid wages of 11.2 million euros, just months after they were bought by Bahrain-based Indian tycoon Ahsan Ali Syed.

Real Zaragoza also applied to go into administration last summer, and Rayo Vallecano, who were promoted to the first division last season, are also in a precarious financial position.

“We have proposed, as exists in other countries, preventative measures so that this situation does not occur,” Rubiales said.

Spanish and European champions Barcelona, with world player of the year Messi, are scheduled to kick off their title defence away to Malaga on August 21.

Real Madrid, who boast the world’s most expensive player in Cristiano Ronaldo, begin their league season at home to Athletic Bilbao on the same day.

Earlier this year, the LFP itself had planned to strike during the last weekend of the season over broadcast rights.

But a judge barred the walkout, backing a suit filed by six first division clubs.

The LFP was protesting a long-standing rule that one first division match per weekend is broadcast for free on television.

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