Uefa auditors dig into CSKA Sofia accounts

Four financial auditors from Uefa’s club financial control body arrived in Sofia to check the accounts of Bulgarian football club CSKA Sofia, the country’s Bulgarian Football Union said in a statement late on September 13.

Earlier this week, Uefa, the game’s governing body in Europe, named 23 football clubs involved in Uefa club competitions that have had payment of their prize money temporarily suspended for breaching the association’s new licensing and financial fair-play regulations.

The clubs are mainly from Eastern European countries, but the list also includes Sporting Lisbon, Malaga (the only club in this season’s Champions League group stage on the list) and Atletico Madrid, winners of the Europa League last season and the Uefa Supercup at the start of this season. Other big names include Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Serbia’s FK Partizan, Croatia’s Hajduk Split, along with Dinamo Bucharest and Rapid Bucharest in Romania.

The clubs have until September 30 to “provide an updated situation […] with regards to overdue payables towards other clubs, employees and social/tax authorities,” Uefa said. Prize money payments will remain suspended until the clubs settle their overdue debts, but should the clubs fail to do so, they risk being kept out of Uefa competitions altogether.

CSKA’s debts have been estimated at 54 million leva (about 27.6 million euro), but the bulk (about 41 million leva) is owed to companies owned by the club’s two main shareholders – Dimitar Borissov and Ivo Ivanov.

Borissov and Ivanov, best known as the owners of refuse collection firm Titan (much to the delight of rival supporters, who have gleefully exploited such an obvious link between rubbish and CSKA), said last week that they started clearing all the club’s debts and were looking to have CSKA debt-free by the end of October.

The duo are keen to sell their stake – since taking charge of the club in March 2009, the club’s only success has been winning the Bulgarian Cup in 2011. Three runner-up finishes in four years have failed to cheer up the club’s numerous and demanding supporters (CSKA holds the all-time record with 31 domestic titles, the last one won in 2008) – especially since twice in that span, the team threw away big leads in the league table, conceding the title at the tail end of the season.

Frequent managerial reshuffles, of which there have been eight during the current ownership’s tenure, have failed to appease the fans; the endless media rows about CSKA’s debts to other clubs have only poured additional oil on the fire. As a result, fans have been vocal in demanding that the owners let someone else have a turn.

Borissov and Ivanov appear more than willing to do so, in exchange for 14 million leva for a debt-free club – incidentally or not, the club owes about 13 million leva to outside creditors (about half of that sum to tax authorities, according to reports in Bulgarian media), which appears to imply that the Titan duo are willing to write off the debt owed to their own companies, but want the new owners to effectively fund the repayment of outside debt.

To smooth the deal, the duo said that they were willing to accept a scheme in which the acquisition would be paid in several annual tranches – “by 2016, 2017 or 2018,” Borissov said on September 6.

The only suitor, a group of local businessmen who have set up an association named CSKA Vuzrazhdane (Bulgarian for “revival”), broke off talks earlier this month, claiming that the asking price – 19.7 million leva was the figure cited by the group at the time – was too high.

As a result of the uncertainty surrounding the club’s future, CSKA is currently languishing mid-table after four matches, already seven points off the pace being set by arch-rivals Levski Sofia and defending champions Loudogorets Razgrad.

(CSKA Sofia fans photo via cska.bg)



Alex Bivol

Alex Bivol is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe.