Football: Embattled CSKA Sofia find new owners

Debt-ridden CSKA Sofia, one of Bulgaria's most popular football clubs, finally managed to find new owners to snatch it from the brink of insolvency on Wednesday, the club said.

"Today we signed an agreement to transfer the ownership of CSKA to the group 'Red Champions.' The club's shares were already deposed with the buyer," a statement on CSKA's website said.

The "Red Champions" initiative -- comprising seven businessmen and keen CSKA fans who refused to be named -- will take over all operations at the club as of Thursday, even though the deal still requires approval by Bulgaria's competition watchdog, the club added.

The new owners have said they will cover 10-11 million leva (5-5.6 million euros, $6.5-7.2 million) -- or about half -- of CSKA's debts to its players and to the Bulgarian tax authorities.

The old owners Titan will take or write off the rest.

The move rescues the club from the brink of insolvency after what media called the most dramatic episode in the 31-time Bulgarian champions' history.

Fans almost lost hope after Bulgarian and Barcelona legend Hristo Stoichkov said on Monday that he was quitting just over a month after taking over as coach, citing the former owners' "endless lies" that they would find money for the club.

Uncertainty over CSKA's fate less than two weeks before the start of the new season also prompted angry rallies by fans in Sofia and outside the headquarters of the Bulgarian Football Union in recent weeks.

CSKA has been hit by severe financial difficulties and frequent changes of coach in recent years and fans counted on Stoichkov to save the club.

A representative of the new owners, Aleksander Todorov, told state BNT televison this week that ex-manager and crowd favourite Stoycho Mladenov had agreed to return as coach.

This would be the fourth stint at CSKA's helm for the 56-year-old, who has already led the side to two Bulgarian league titles, in 2003 and 2008.