Bulgarian FA reports match-fixing suspicions to prosecutors

SOFIA (Reuters) - The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) has reported suspected match-fixing to the police surrounding the possible payment of bribes to fix the outcome of second-tier games.

Officials from five clubs - Septemvri Simitli, Lokomotiv Mezdra, Vereya Stara Zagora, Botev Vratsa and Pirin Razlog - were summoned to give evidence, the BFU said in a statement on Tuesday.

Last week, Lokomotiv Mezdra sparked the match-fixing row after accusing referee Nikolay Andreev of “blatantly influencing” the outcome of their match at Vereya.

“What happened in Stara Zagora was a mockery to us,” Lokomotiv captain Nikolay Tsvetkov told local media.

“The referee was trying to provoke us during the whole game. He warned us that he would award the hosts a penalty. Even the hosts laughed at his decisions.” On Thursday, Vereya beat Lokomotiv 1-0 thanks to a penalty two minutes from time.

Most of the games in Bulgaria’s second division are included on bookmakers’ betting coupons.

A day after Lokomotiv’s claims, Septemvri said that Andreev officiated the same way during their league game against Vereya and fulfilled his threat to award the Stara Zagora-based side a penalty.

Septemvri also said in a statement that Vereya bribed Pirin Razlog players before the game between the two teams.

Vereya denied any wrongdoing.

There have been widespread reports of match-fixing and corruption in Bulgarian football in recent years but little in the way of progress in holding anyone accountable.

The European Commission has also criticised the Balkan country’s authorities for not doing enough to combat the problem.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Pritha Sarkar