Bulgaria’s top-flight football clubs plan to ask the Cabinet to divide any sponsorship money from Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom among all clubs in the country’s top football division, the A Group, mass circulation daily 24 Chassa said on August 6.
Gazprom has been in talks with Levski Sofia football club for the past year concerning a corporate sponsorship deal, but the other 13 clubs in the 14-team A Group say that the money should be divided equally, according to a facsimile of the letter that the clubs plan to submit to the Cabinet, published by the daily.
When Bulgaria signed a binding memorandum in November 2012 to build South Stream gas pipeline, Gazprom chief executive Alexey Miller said it was possible that the company would consider a sponsorship deal with Levski. Gazprom is an official partner of the Uefa Champions League and the title sponsor of Zenith St Petersburg, Schalke 04 in Germany and Crvena Zvezda Belgrade in football alone, with many other sponsorship contracts in other sports.
The deal with Levski has not been signed yet, with the club’s president Todor Batkov saying in the past that the political crises in Bulgaria this year were partially to blame. Most recently, after Miller’s visit to Sofia last month, Batkov said that only minor technical details remained to be ironed out and a contract could be signed as early as August.
However, the other 13 clubs in the A Group argue that the Gazprom sponsorship has been agreed as part of the South Stream project by the Bulgarian state, as represented by former prime minister Boiko Borissov. (Borissov, a keen amateur footballer, is a self-professed Levski fan.)
“We believe that in this way, the state and its influence are being used to benefit only one Bulgarian football club. This is why, in the name of all football clubs in the A Group, we ask for your aid so that all the sponsorship funds for Levski agreed with Gazprom are divided evenly between all clubs in the A Group,” the letter said.
The clubs suggested that the funds are divided using the Professional Football League, the association of all clubs that play in the A Group in any given season.
The facsimile of the letter published by 24 Chassa had been signed by all clubs, with the sole exception of Cherno More Varna, which was expected to do so on August 6, after which the letter would be submitted to the Cabinet.