Bulgaria's Botev expelled over debts

SOFIA - Botev Plovdiv have been expelled from the Bulgarian first division for non-payment of debts and registering insufficient players, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) said on Wednesday.

In the last few weeks, the BFU has upheld claims by 19 players that Botev, twice Bulgarian champions, breached their contracts by failing to pay them for several months.

The club, who were bottom of the division, also failed to pay taxes and fines imposed by the football authorities.

The Bulgarian championship resumes on Friday after a winter break of two-and-a-half months. Botev will be marked down as having 3-0 defeats in all their matches until the end of the championship.

Botev, who celebrate their centenary in 2012, will most probably be relegated to the Balkan country's third division.

"It's a pity because Botev are a club with a great history," said BFU vice-president Atanas Furnadzhiev. "However, the BFU has to observe its rules."

Botev's players have been unable to train this year because of disruptive protests by fans who accused club president Dimitar Hristolov of doing little to pull the club out of financial trouble and of obstructing several candidates interested in buying the club.