Litex Lovech kicked out of Bulgarian league following referee call

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Litex Lovech were on Wednesday kicked out of the Bulgarian league, four days after their players walked off the field in protest over a referee's decision during a match against Levski Sofia.

Litex were down to 10 men when a second player was sent off and Levski were awarded a penalty, prompting the management to order their players off the field.

The Bulgarian Football Union kicked the club out of the top division and fined them 20,000 leva ($11,000).

"It was the only possible decision according to the union's disciplinary rules," said Yuri Kuchev, the head of the union's disciplinary committee.

Litex, who have won four league titles and four domestic cups since 1998, said they will appeal the decision.

Earlier this year, the BFU revoked the licenses of CSKA Sofia and Lokomotiv Sofia because of outstanding debts and relegated them to lower divisions.

Because of Saturday's incident, the owner of league leader Ludogorets threatened to leave the league, claiming referees are favouring Levski.

"We will probably quit the championship if such precedents in favour of Levski continue," Ludogorets owner Kiril Domuschiev said. "It seems that this is the way they want to win the title."

Ludogorets lead the standings with 38 points from 20 matches. Levski, who have 35 points from 19 matches, are second but are expected to be awarded a 3-0 win against Litex.

It is not clear if Litex, who were fourth with 33 points, will continue in the Bulgarian Cup, where they have reached the semifinals.