|President and AC Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi awards Berlusconi trophy to Milan's Massimo Ambrosini [GETTY]
The start of the Serie A season on Saturday will be delayed by a players' strike, Italian players association president Damiano Tommasi announced on Friday.
All 20 Serie A captains signed a document this month threatening a strike if a new collective contract was not signed before the season, and weeks of negotiations produced no resolution.
"We tried right up until the end, but all the attempts were in vain," Tommasi said, issuing his strike proclamation just as clubs were due to begin travelling to matches.
The main conflicts are over two clauses the clubs want - one that would allow them to force unwanted players to train away from the first team and another that would make players pay a new government solidarity tax that applies to high-wage earners.
Under the government's new austerity package, citizens face a 5 percent additional tax on income above $128,250 and a 10 percent additional tax on income above $213,750.
With a break for international matches over the weekend of September 3-4, the strike could delay the start of the season until September 10-11 or beyond.
"The possibility of an all-out strike is a problem. There is still a risk for the next matches," said football federation president Giancarlo Abete.
The most unusual strike
If the strike lasts only a round or two, missed matches will likely be made up at a later date.
Still, cabinet undersecretary and sports delegate Rocco Crimi said the public will see it as "the most unusual strike" in Italy's history, adding that both sides need to calm down, lower their voices and work toward a deal.
The only other players' strike in Serie A history was in March 1996.
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 verbal agreements.
The clubs voted 18-2 on Wednesday to reject the players' proposal, with only Siena and Cagliari voting in favour of the players' version.
Tommasi offered earlier Friday for the league to sign a temporary contract until June, 2012 - without the two additional clauses the clubs want - saying that otherwise "it could take months, not 15 days" to resolve the conflict.
However, the league quickly rejected Tommasi's proposal.
Milan opens the Champions League against last season's winner Barcelona on September 13, while Inter faces Turkish club Trabzonspor and Napoli visits Manchester City a day later.
The strike means Italy's players will face the Faeroe Islands and Slovenia in European Championship qualifiers September 2 and 6 without any league matches in their legs.
A strike by Spanish club players wiped out the opening weekend of the Liga, although a deal was reached Thursday to ensure the second round goes ahead this weekend.