Levante call off strike action ahead of Real game

May 18, 2008

MADRID, May 18 (Reuters) - The players of relegated Levante ended their strike action on Sunday and will play their final game of the Primera Liga season against champions Real Madrid at the Bernabeu (1900 GMT).

The squad, who have not trained during the week, are in a long-running dispute with the cash-strapped Valencia club over the non-payment of salaries and bonuses from as far back as last season.

'We have reached an agreement 'in extremis' and will play this afternoon,' Levante defender Luis Rubiales told a news conference.

A deal was brokered with the help of the Spanish Football League (LFP) and the players union (AFE), and includes an agreement to hold a friendly match between Levante and various players from the Primera Liga to help raise funds for the squad.

'The Levante players did not want to spoil Real Madrid's celebrations and have made a great effort to reach a last-minute solution,' AFE president Gerardo Gonzalez Movilla said.

'They aren't in the best shape physically, but on the other hand have had some of the pressure lifted from them.'

The agreement will be a relief for Real who have sold out their stadium as they plan to hold a title celebration party after the final whistle, which includes on-pitch entertainment, a light and sound show, and a firework display.

Bottom club Levante have suffered financial problems throughout the campaign because of increased expenses, lower than expected television revenue and delays on a plan to raise funds by selling their city-centre stadium.