- Associated Press - Thursday, September 1, 2011

MILAN (AP) - Italian soccer clubs proposed a one-year labor agreement on Thursday in an effort to end a players’ strike that already forced the postponement of the first round of games in the country’s top league.

Both sides want to reach an agreement before the second round begins Sept. 9. If the strike lasts only a round or two, missed games likely will be made up.

Players association President Damiano Tommasi last week proposed a similar one-year solution, but the clubs rejected the temporary solution then. Tommasi likely will respond Friday, although initial reports said the players association now wants a three-year contract.

Serie A President Maurizio Beretta said during a league assembly the proposed contract would run until June 30, 2012. He added that the proposal would stipulate that the sides reach a deal over the next 30 days on the last remaining conflict _ a clause concerning the rights of players to train with the first team.

Clubs want the clause to state they can force unwanted players to train away from the first team or accept a transfer.

Changes to the government’s austerity package in recent days appear to have eliminated the other major conflict, a new solidarity tax that would have applied to high-wage earners, such as top-division soccer players.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter criticized the strike during an appearance at the beach football World Cup in Ravenna.

“Out of respect for fans who follow football throughout the world, it shouldn’t get to a situation where a season can’t start,” Blatter told the ANSA news agency. “It’s like going to La Scala in Milan to await the start of a great opera and then it doesn’t begin. Football also has a social and cultural aspect. Football is more than a game here, it’s a religion.”

The conflict between the players and the league has been ongoing since the last 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 agreements.

“We absolutely need to find a solution, with good reciprocal will,” AC Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani said.

If a resolution is found, the Serie A will open with defending champion Milan vs. Lazio on Sept. 9, followed by Cesena vs. Napoli a day later and eight more matches on Sept. 11.

Both sides also want to get matches in before the Champions League group phase begins on Sept. 13-14 with Milan opening at defending champion Barcelona, Inter Milan hosting Turkish club Trabzonspor and Napoli visiting Manchester City.

The strike already means Italy’s international players will face the Faeroe Islands and Slovenia in 2012 European Championship qualifiers on Friday and Tuesday without any league matches in preparation.

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