Bulgarian Football Union President Denies Responsibility for the Protest

Sports | November 22, 2023, Wednesday // 17:46
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Football Union President Denies Responsibility for the Protest

The president of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) Borislav Mihailov said that the protest against the leadership of the union last Thursday was paid for. According to him, the BFU cannot bear the blame for what happened on the streets.

Mihailov was at a hearing in the Committee on Children, Family, Youth and Sports in the National Assembly. He again justified the decision to have the match with Hungary behind closed doors on the recommendation of UEFA following an opinion from the Sofia Directorate of Internal Affairs (SDVR).

According to him, it is inadmissible to blame the BFU for what happened at the protest. Mihailov stated that there were reports of riots brewing, as well as the arrival of 3,500 fans from Hungary (in reality they were more like 350).

"The BFU did not move or close stadiums, but took all possible actions to allow the match to take place and to prevent excesses. UEFA expressed a firm position that the decision to play the match behind closed doors was correct. The BFU is responsible for what is happening in the stadium , but not outside of it. To find fault in the BFU for what happened at the protest is inadmissible. The fault lies with the provocateurs, as well as the people who paid them. The name of the organizer of the protest is known. The BFU and me as its president it cannot become a scapegoat for a paid protest. We as organizers have done everything," Mihailov said.

He added that under the created situation and "pressure" he is proud that the football union managed to save human lives.

BFU executive director Borislav Popov reiterated that the football union is following UEFA's recommendations after notifying of possible protests and possible safety risks.

According to him, the first meeting with SDVR was on October 24, and on October 27, BFU informed UEFA about the danger of riots. The UEFA recommendation came on November 4.

"The decision of how to play the match and where is made by UEFA. In two letters they explicitly emphasize that they are closing the doors. In appendix #5 of the chronology we have given, it is explicitly written that they strongly recommend it. The SDVR gave us a recommendation that the match should be outside Sofia, and then UEFA replied that the match will be in Plovdiv and without an audience. Then there was another confirmation from UEFA that the match must be behind closed doors. UEFA is the administrator, we are obliged to comply. We cannot afford to manipulate UEFA. We are obliged to notify them of the threats," said Popov.

The Deputy Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Dimitar Kangaldzhiev, stated that the Ministry of the Interior did not want the match with Hungary to be moved from Sofia, since it did not matter to the police in which city they would organize the security of this qualification. He reiterated the police position that it is better for the fans to be in the stadium.

Mihailov again referred to UEFA and recalled the match with England from 2019 as an example where even if the fans are in the stadium, incidents can happen.

Asked if there was political pressure against BFU, Mihailov said: "It's not obvious, no one called me or wrote me letters, but the rejection of two stadiums I don't know if it can be counted."

After the initial decision to move the match with Hungary outside of Sofia, an option was Plovdiv, but the municipality refused, and then Kardjali was offered, but this version also failed.

When asked about the executive committee and the future congress that the BFU announced it would convene, Mihailov said that this was not the topic: "I came here as a person who respects this institution. I did not come to become a sacrificial lamb and be done as it is done. Obviously no one cares about the facts, this long correspondence of October 24th is interpreted differently by each and everyone. We don't want to look for the facts, we want to look for a victim. And the victim is already named. I don't see the point let's move on. This is no hearing, but an attack on me, whatever the public interest is."

Mihailov stated that he is a "scapegoat for many months and years" of a group of people who "frantically want to become bosses in the football union".

"It's been two and a half years now. They haven't stopped. There are other people who are behind them and finance them, and accordingly those who turned this peaceful protest into a violent one - these are the hooligans. There are protests, but not every protest can leads to someone's resignation. This match was a European qualification, when UEFA says it is highly recommended, it is like a law. It cannot directly say to close the doors," Mihailov added.

When asked if there was any data on who paid for the protest, he said: "It's like you haven't seen paid protests. There are normal people who protest, there are others who put on masks and start vandalism. This is hooliganism."

Mihailov stated that the next home match of the national team will be in March and he hopes that then there will be no such excesses. He also said that he hopes to have a new national stadium.

After the calls of some of the members of the commission to resign, at the end of the hearing Mihailov replied: "I don't see why exactly in the National Assembly you should challenge a person who was elected by football people to resign. On Monday, there will be a full committee of the BFU and everything will fall into place. Because that's the order. That's the order. Don't ask because you haven't done anything for football. You can't have gathered and as a sacrificial lamb all against me. Are we the correspondence, anyone can interpret. I'm the target. We'll calm everyone down."

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Tags: BFU, football, mihailov, protest

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