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Spanish season delayed after strike goes ahead

The start of the Spanish league season will be delayed by a strike after Spanish league officials and player representatives failed on a last-minute deal.

The Association of Spanish Football Players said the strike will go ahead after talks failed Friday for improved salary guarantees in a new collective bargaining agreement.

Spanish players representing all 42 teams in the top two divisions backed the first work stoppage in 27 years. The season was scheduled to start this weekend with three-time defending champion Barcelona at Malaga and Real Madrid playing Athletic Bilbao.

"The games are clearly unrealizable," AFE said in a statement on its website.

The Spanish league — home to top players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — may start in September after the AFE pledged to boycott the first two rounds because of labor conflict.

Both parties plan to talk on Saturday and Monday, with next weekend's second round of games still uncertain. AFE hasn't indicated if it will extend the strike beyond then with an international break, meaning the domestic league may not start until Sept. 10.

The conflict is about wages as players look for guarantees with clubs owing up to $72 million in unpaid salaries to more than 200 players.

Spain's bankruptcy law is also a problem as it allows insolvent clubs to re-negotiate or delay paying player salaries — just like other outstanding debts — while under bankruptcy protection. Spanish legislation expected to pass through parliament next month would relegate any insolvent club into the third division, although that wouldn't go into effect until the end of this season.

There are six topflight clubs and a number of second-division clubs in bankruptcy protection.

When the postponed games would be replayed is uncertain, with no free dates for rescheduling on the Spanish calendar before May.

"What's clear is that the first round of games will not be played for the moment, but that doesn't mean they won't be played at all. That will depend on the federation and whatever agreement we sign," said AFE representative Luis Gil.

LFP head Jose Luis Astiazaran said the league was not contemplating a 37-round schedule but an agreement had to be reached first before finding a solution to the crowded schedule.

Clubs involved in European competitions will play, with Villarreal facing a Champions League qualifying game next week and Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid playing Europa League matches.

Barcelona's exhibition against Napoli on Monday also will go ahead.

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