FOOTBALL chiefs are battling to keep the England team united amid fears a pay row could end in a players’ strike.
Bosses are terrified the wrangle over future commercial rights could divide Gareth Southgate’s squad which has been tipped for a golden decade of success by some of the game’s biggest names.
A similar dispute resulted in Denmark’s national team going on strike for a match against Slovakia last month.
A makeshift team made up of lower league players turned out and lost 3-0.
A football source warned: “If this isn’t played carefully we could have a Denmark situation on our hands.
“It could halt all the momentum the England team has built up.”
The dispute has arisen after Three Lions players sought to take control of their sponsorship activities while on international duty by ending a deal with 1966 Entertainment which used to negotiate on their behalf.
The stars and their agents had been unhappy income from such deals had dropped to around £150,000-a-year per player.
The FA has set up a players’ committee to handle future commercial deals on behalf of the squad.
Its members are Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker, Fabian Delph and Jesse Lingard.
But some players outside it have complained their voices have not been heard and they have been kept in the dark.
Some fear they could end up with slim pickings from future deals compared to big name players Iike Kane.
Such is the seriousness of the issue the players held talks with their legal advisers and the FA after meeting up at England’s St George’s Park HQ to prepare for tomorrow night’s Nations League clash against Croatia.
Last night a source close to one of the players said: “It is getting a few backs up but we’ve not got to the stage of downing tools – or rather boots.
“The real worry is if it creates ill feeling in the team just at a time when England are doing rather well. That would be a disaster.”
England reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia and have risen to sixth in the international rankings.
Fifa’s technical analyst Marco van Basten – a former world footballer of the year who managed the Netherlands – recently stated Southgate’s young team was set for 10 years of success.
Last night an FA spokesman said: “We have been working closely with the players and their individual representatives to review the current commercial and marketing arrangements.
“The World Cup has shown the benefits of a strong relationship between England players and the FA which we are building on in a very positive and collaborative fashion.”