Levski start stadium rebuild before Gazprom sponsor deal is completed

Leveski-stadium projectBy Alexander Krassimirov
July 19 - Bulgarian club Levski has begun a large-scale reconstruction of its Georgi Asparuhov stadium in Sofia, although it has not yet formally signed a sponsorship agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom that will significantly help fund the redevelopment.

The delay in signing the agreement is attributed to the uncertain political situation in Bulgaria and a change of government.

Gazprom is expected to provide about €4.5 million per year - almost the entire budget of the club for one season (current club budget is €5-6 million).

Gazprom's deputy chairman of the board of directors, Alexey Miller, was in Bulgaria recently but declined to comment on football issues.

Levski owner Todor Batkov said negotiations between the two sides are going well and he expects the contract to most likely be signed in August. "I am satisfied with the talks. What remains is to specify certain technical parameters of the contract," said Batkov.

According to insiders, the talks are about sponsorship, and not the purchase of club by Gazprom. Gazprom already sponsors Zenit St. Petersburg, Serbian club Red Star Belgrade, Germany's Schalke Gelsenkirchen and English side Chelsea. Gazprom is also a sponsor of the Champions League.

Earlier in the year Levski launched plans for the reconstruction of the Georgi Asparuhov stadium, pulling down the main stand of the stadium in the first of three stages. The new 28,000 capacity facility is scheduled to be fully complete in 2018.

The new season in Bulgaria starts this weekend. Levski will continue to play their home games at Georgi Asparuhov.

Levski, one of the best run clubs in Bulgaria, is sponsored by the largest mobile company in Bulgaria M-tel, as well as Russian bank VTB Capital. The club has had a poor start to their season losing in the first qualifying round of Europa League tournament to Irtysh Pavlodar from Kazakhstan.

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