No smoke without fire...

No smoke without fire…

In Bulgaria, the mighty have fallen. CSKA Sofia, the country’s most successful club, has lost its license because of its level of indebtedness.

Both CSKA and Lokomotiv, two instantly-recognisable names from cold war Bulgarian football, could start the 2015-16 season in the lowly fourth level. For Lokomotiv, that also means they cannot compete in the Europa League next season. CSKA owes the equivalent of EUR 5.6m to the Bulgarian tax office, the National Revenue Agency.

CSKA have won the Bulgarian championship 31 times, the last being in 2007-08. Six of those successes came in the 1970s when CSKA were among the most feared opponents from behind the Iron Curtain.

In 2014-15, CSKA finished second in the first stage of the Bulgarian league and fifth in the final stage. They were the second-best supported club, with an average of 3,900 – 10 years ago, the club attracted double that figure.

Earlier in the campaign, it was revealed that CSKA’s players had not been paid for three months, and in one report, it was revealed that the club had pleaded to its fans to help its dire financial plight.

Since being sold by businessman Vasil Bozhkov in 2006, CSKA have lurched from crisis to crisis and has changed hands several times. They almost lost their license in 2013.

Some nine years after Bozhkov’s departure, CSKA have been plagued by financial problems after wasting money on large transfer fees and inflated wages. They are deep in debt not just to the National Revenue Agency, but also the National Social Security Institute.

To make matters worse, one of CSKA’s former players, Youness Bengelloun was recently awarded more than EUR 400,000 in compensation for unpaid wages. The case was handled by a FIFA tribunal.

CSKA’s only hope of staying in the top flight is if they can assume the licence of another club. Meanwhile, all players become free agents and CSKA have to pick themselves up off the floor. It may take some time.