A federal judge in the US has granted National Football League (NFL) players a preliminary injunction to end a "lockout" imposed by team owners.
Judge Susan Richard Nelson said the lockout, which is threatening the 2011 season, was "inflicting irreparable harm" on the players.
The team owners said they would appeal against the decision.
NFL team owners imposed the lockout last month, the first labour stoppage in the sport since 1987.
The judge said the lockout "is presently inflicting, and will continue to inflict, irreparable harm upon [the players], particularly when weighed against the lack of any real injury that would be imposed on the NFL by issuing the preliminary injunction".
In response, the league said it believed "that federal law bars injunctions in labour disputes.
"But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal."
The main sticking point is how to distribute the league's $9bn (£5.5bn) in annual revenues.
Players for the NFL's 32 teams currently receive 60% of the revenues, something the clubs' owners see as too generous.
The NFL takes $1.3bn for costs but it says these have risen steeply since the previous deal was struck in 2006 and it now wants to take $2.3bn, which would mean less money for the players.
The talks also covered wages, drug testing, pension benefits, and plans to increase the number of regular-season games from 16 to 18.
The new season is due to start in September.