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Soccer-Perth release three due to coronavirus-related issues

SYDNEY, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Perth Glory’s preparations for their remaining Asian Champions League games suffered a blow on Wednesday after the A-League side released three players because of COVID-19 related issues, while a pay dispute with their union rumbles on.

Perth, who are scheduled to play their remaining five group matches in Asian’s premier club competition in a hub in Malaysia in November, said defender Tomislav Mrcela has been released early from his contract to rejoin his family in Croatia.

Nathaniel Atkinson and Andrew Nabbout, who were to join the team for next season, had their contracts terminated by mutual agreement because of uncertainty over restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

“We are obviously disappointed that two players of their quality will not now be joining us, but unfortunately the ongoing border restrictions have made their moves impossible at this time,” Glory Chief Executive Tony Pignata said.

Perth owner Tony Sage is currently embroiled in a bitter dispute with Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) after the players’ union refused to accept a 30% pay cut amid the pandemic.

Sage has stood down his entire squad and said he would negotiate with the players individually, ignoring their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“There will be no deal with the PFA, it will be a deal with individual players,” Sage told Australian Associated Press. “That’s what it’s come to.”

Perth, who appointed Richard Garcia as head coach last week after Tony Popovic moved to Greece, said they had projected a 70% reduction in revenue for next season due to the pandemic.

The PFA said at the weekend they were still in talks with the A-League clubs about the CBA and that Perth’s actions were putting undue pressure on the players.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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