Corruption and match-fixing in Bulgarian football
Long held suspicions of match-fixing in Bulgarian football materialised in the arrest of Bulgarian Ivan Lekov, vice chairman of the State Agency for Sport and Youth and member of the Executive Commission of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU). This happened after a group of former referees went public about experienced bribes and match-fixings conducted by top positioned deputies in the BFU.
Bulgarian Football Union Official Logo. (c) BFU
On August 25 this year, a group of former referees went on Bulgarian state TV and accused Lekov and Borislav Alexandrov, head of the Bulgarian Referees’ Commission of pressuring them to judge in favour of certain teams.
One of the judges, Hristo Ristoskov, claimed to have a taped recording of a telephone conversation between him and Lekov, in which Lekov offers the referee to lobby inside UEFA and FIFA in his favour, in exchange for fixed match results. Ristoskov further states, that Lekov blackmailed him and wanted money to ensure his career.
“Ivan Lekov, [...], also tried to blackmail me and offered me better positions on BFU’s referee list so that I could referee UEFA games”, Ristoskov told Bulgarian newspaper The Sofia Echo. According to The Sofia Echo, the other judges have had similar experiences.
One month after the referees came forward with their accusations, Lekov was arrested by agents from the State Agency for National Security. Lekov is being accused of abuse of position. He was detained for questioning for 72 hours after which he was released on bail.
The Referees’ Commission
Lekov was not the only one to meet allegations from the referees. The referees accused the chairman of the BFU Referees’ Commission, Alexandrov for having asked them to fix matches on several occasions.
Alexandrov was temporarily suspended after the judges’ appearance and was called in for questioning on the matter last week. He too was released on bail later that same day.
Consequently of the arrest, the BFU has decided to suspend all seven members of the Referees’ Commission as a result of conflicts between the body of the BFU and match officials. “It’s obvious that the Referees’ Commission is unable to cope with its duties, so we decided to dismiss it”, Borislav Mihaylov, president of the BFU states, according to Reuters News Agency.
Alexandrov handed in his resignation prior to the dismissal of the commission.
Both Alexandrov and Lekov deny the allegations.
The BFU takes precautions
As a consequence of the international coverage of the allegations, the BFU has decided to keep this kind of allegations out of the public eye. This is done in order to protect the reputation of Bulgarian football and to protect the money that comes in due to the sale of the TV rights, Bulgarian online paper Frognews.bg reports.
According to The Sofia Echo the Bulgarian Football clubs have signed a joint agreement to follow a code of ethics to avoid further pressure on judges in the future.