SOFIA (Reuters) – The president of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) stepped down on Tuesday after the prime minister urged him to quit following racist abuse from Bulgarian fans towards black English players during their Euro 2020 qualifier.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov called for former goalkeeper Borislav Mihaylov to step down after Monday’s match was temporarily halted by the referee to tackle abuse from the crowd.
“Today, the president of the Bulgarian Football Union Borislav Mihailov submitted his resignation, which will be presented to the members of the Executive Committee at the meeting on Friday,” the BFU said in a statement.
“His position is a consequence of recent tensions: an environment that is detrimental to Bulgarian football and the Bulgarian Football Union.”
The BFU announcement came only a couple of hours after a BFU spokesman said that Mihaylov would not resign because the state had no right to interfere in football.
“The football union cannot be held responsible for the hooliganism of a group of people,” BFU’s spokesman Hristo Zapryanov had said earlier.
Racist abuse cast a blight over the match at the Vasil Levski national stadium as the game was twice halted by the referee after monkey noises and chants from the crowd were aimed at black English players.
A group of black-clad Bulgarian fans, some of whom were making right-wing salutes, were moved from an area behind the dugout at the stadium with home team captain Ivelin Popov appealing to the supporters in a heated discussion at halftime.
The 56-year-old Mihaylov, part of Bulgarian team that reached the semi-finals at the 1994 World Cup in the United States, had been BFU president since 2005 when he replaced long-serving Ivan Slavkov, who was expelled from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) following allegations of corruption.
Former Reading keeper Mihaylov, who also played at the World Cup finals in 1986 and 1998 as well as the European championship in 1996, has been heavily criticised by Bulgarian media and fans for failing to lead the BFU out of years of corruption and controversy.
Bulgaria have failed to qualify for a major tournament since 2004 while Mihaylov’s tenure has been marred by cronyism allegations. There have been widespread reports of match-fixing in Bulgaria in recent years but little in the way of progress in holding anyone accountable.
“After many years spent in the post and with his many contacts at a high international level, Mr. Mihailov expresses his firm readiness to continue to help the development of Bulgarian football in every way possible,” BFU said in a statement.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie