November 15 – The Euro 2024 qualifier between Bulgaria and Hungary has been relocated back to Sofia having been moved to Plovdiv over fears of fan protests in the capital.
However, when Plovdiv said they were unable to host as they couldn’t get their stadium, currently under renovation, ready in time, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) were forced to return to UEFA with the original proposal to host in Sofia.
“The Bulgarian Football Union has provided UEFA with necessary guarantees from the relevant local authorities and stadium management in Sofia to host the match at the Vasil Levski National Stadium without spectators,” said a UEFA statement.
The Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) reacted angrily to the uncertainty around the fixture saying the BFU conduct was “unprecedented, frivolous and unsportsmanlike”.
“The circumstances of the Bulgarian match, which is extremely important for the Hungarian national team, has resulted in an unprecedented situation in international football. At the request of the Bulgarian association, UEFA changed the location of the match for the first time last week, and for the second time today, and ordered the match to be held behind closed doors,” said a MLSZ statement.
“It is important to emphasize that, according to the rules, UEFA has the right to make such a decision in an emergency situation, such as a security risk, and the visiting association does not have the right to veto such a decision. Knowing the above, the Hungarian association tried to act in a sportsmanlike way last week, and although – mainly because of the fans of the Hungarian national team – it did not agree with the late change of venue and especially with the closed doors solution, it accepted the decision under duress and did not comment on the events in public,” the statement continued.
“However, now that a few days before the match, complete chaos has arisen regarding the venue, it must be clearly stated: what the organizing association has done in recent weeks is unprecedented, completely unjustified and seriously unsportsmanlike… The Bulgarian association put both UEFA and the Hungarian association in an impossible situation: taking advantage of the fact that both organizations have sportsmanship in mind, and in every case they strive for the question of promotion to be decided on the field.
“Based on the rules, the situation is clear: if the Hungarian national team did not travel to the location now designated, they would lose the match without playing, which is obviously an unacceptable option for all football-loving Hungarians.”
Minutes later, the Bulgarian FA also published a statement, criticising the municipality of Plovdiv for “violating the preliminary agreement for the use of the Hristo Botev stadium” and saying: “The decision of the European headquarters (UEFA) is based on an up-to-date opinion of the SDVR, which is committed to the protection of public order before, during and after the end of the match. The expressed position of the SDVR is based on a change in circumstances – UEFA’s decision not to allow the public into the stadium.”
Contact the writer of this story, Aleksander Krassimirov, at moc.l1702261325labto1702261325ofdlr1702261325owedi1702261325sni@o1702261325fni1702261325