SOFIA, (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s parliament has approved legal amendments under which anyone convicted of attempting to fix sports events will face up to six years in jail.
Media reports of widespread match-fixing and corruption have been rife in Bulgaria for years but no one has been brought to trial and the European Commission has criticised the authorities for doing little to fight the problem.
“I hope these provisions will help for the termination of these vicious acts,” parliamentary commission chief for education and sport Ognyan Stoichkov told reporters on Thursday.
“Sports people should respect the fans who pay for their tickets and want to see fair play and not fixed results.”
Those convicted of attempting to fix matches or giving bribes will also face fines of up to 15,000 levs ($10,890).
“No doubt we’ll continue to work to root out match-fixing in this country,” added Stoichkov.
Bulgarian authorities have investigated claims of possible match-fixing in eight soccer matches over the past year with champions Litex Lovech, Levski Sofia and CSKA Sofia also involved in matches under suspicion.
Earlier this month, second division Etar Veliko Tarnovo asked the prosecutor to investigate their 3-1 loss to Svetkavitsa Targovishte in a promotion playoff in June .
In 2007, European soccer’s governing body UEFA investigated Bulgarian team Cherno More’s 4-0 win over Macedonia’s Makedonija in the Intertoto Cup.
Cherno More denied any wrongdoing.
The first documented manipulated game in the Balkan country took place in 1949 when Levski and city neighbours Akademik drew 1-1 to “help” CSKA be relegated to the second division.