Interview with George Manolov, Bitcoin Director of Botev Plovdiv – the team that first integrated Bitcoin

The PFC Botev Plovdiv is one of the most famous and oldest football teams in Bulgaria, founded in 1912. The club boasts a rich history and traditions, having won numerous titles throughout its history. As a key player in Bulgarian football, they have recently decided to accept Bitcoin as a payment method, which can be used to purchase tickets and fan memorabilia. The club’s Bitcoin strategy was discussed by the team’s Bitcoin Director, George Manolov, who explained how Botev Plovdiv plans to leverage the advantages offered by Bitcoin.

Let’s start from the very beginning. Could you introduce Botev Plovdiv for those who may not be familiar with the world of international football? What is the team’s position in Bulgarian football, and what goals have you set for the upcoming season?

Established in 1912, Botev Plovdiv FC is Bulgaria’s oldest football club and the world’s first top-division club to fully integrate Bitcoin and Nostr into its operations. With a legacy spanning over a century, the club is playing in the country’s most modern stadium in Europe’s oldest city of Plovdiv. The club is named after Hristo Botev – the Bulgarian poet and revolutionary who was shot 149 years ago while fighting for our people’s freedom.

I joined Botev Plovdiv in September 2023 to lead the club’s Bitcoin strategy. Since then we have become the first professional club globally to have a dedicated Bitcoin team which deeply understands the cryptocurrency world and works to integrate Bitcoin 360 degrees across the club’s operations and identity.

I have three major goals with Botev:

  • To internationalize our club brand globally
  • To build a Bitcoin-centered corporate sports model for the football industry
  • To bring Botev Plovdiv FC to the Champions League and beat Bayern Munich like we did in 1984 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

As we have heard, the club’s owner and management are well-known Bitcoin supporters. What was the personal connection that led to the adoption of Bitcoin? What value does the management see in Bitcoin as an accepted payment method?

The club’s president and management see a clear overlap between the values of our patron Hristo Botev and the values of Satoshi Nakamoto who invented Bitcoin. In the 19th century, Hristo Botev lost life fighting for the personal and physical freedom of Bulgarians. In the 21st century, Bitcoin is a peaceful tool that players, fans, and society can use to protect their economic and personal freedoms.

Botev is an institution with a social and public mission to do good in all its dimensions. The club considers Bitcoin technology to be a tool that has huge potential to bring good to the club, its fans and the general public. Hence integrating Bitcoin and educating our community about its benefits is a natural step for our organization.

What motivated the decision to accept Bitcoin as a payment method? Why could this step be advantageous from both human and financial perspectives?

Accepting Bitcoin payments is a small but important step in educating our community that Bitcoin is money. But this was only the first step of our campaigns. Additionally, we have started selling Bitcoin books in our fanshop, we added a Bitcoin ATM at our stadium, we placed Bitcoin on our official kits, we partnered with JAN3 and their AQUA wallet to introduce a Botev-themed Bitcoin wallet. Much of this has been documented by Joe Nakamoto’s video documentary about the club.

And this is just the beginning. We have many more projects and ideas planned to implement in the coming months.

Let’s approach the question from a practical standpoint. How can fans use Bitcoin exactly? Can they use it to purchase tickets, season passes, fan merchandise, or items from the concession stand? Is there an option to support the club with Bitcoin?

Fans can purchase club merchandise in our fanshop and our online store thanks to our partners from BTCPayServer and CryptoDesk. They can also buy Bitcoin in our fanshop thanks to our ATM partner Soon we will also enable the purchase of tickets with bitcoin. We are not gathering donations for now, but we are planning many more ways for local and global fans to actively engage with the club using bitcoins or even just 21 sats.

It’s been some time since the introduction of Bitcoin. What feedback have you received so far from fans, the community, and the staff? How do you plan to educate the staff on using Bitcoin, and why would you recommend it to everyone?

usage of Bitcoin within the staff and why do you recommend using Bitcoin?

The initial feedback was either very positive or mostly neutral. Most of our community members did not understand what is the connection between football and Bitcoin. Many still don’t, but we are working consistently to educate our community about Bitcoin from various angles. Many neutrally-minded people became more curious about Bitcoin as its price grew from ~$30,00 since we made our initial announcement to the recent highs of ~$50,000-70,000. And I am sure this trend will continue as Bitcoin eventually keeps breaking new highs.

Many football teams have unique NFT collections or partnerships with crypto companies, but this step is much different, much bigger. Have you seen other teams that have fully integrated Bitcoin into their operations?

All professional so far clubs have utilized cryptocurrencies just as another short-term revenue stream. That changed on October 31, 2023 when Botev embraced the Bitcoin and Nostr protocols. We embraced both of these technologies because we see them as an integral part of the club’s long-term business strategy and identity. We value individual sovereignty and freedom of speech. We stand behind those values and we look to amplify the impact of our actions to maximize our bottom line 5 years from now, as opposed to the 5-12 month time horizons of most other football clubs engaging with cryptocurrencies.

Similarly to how El Salvador became the Bitcoin Country in three years of hard work, we aim to become the Bitcoin Club, reaping growing success on and off the field year after year. We are thrilled by the Salvadoran achievements and we are actually in close contact with their National Bitcoin Office to exchange know-how and launch projects together. We look forward to creating a similar successful case-study in football, that other clubs can follow just like countries are already following El Salvador.

The question arises due to the risks associated with Bitcoin technology: what security measures do you plan to implement? Since Bitcoin transactions are entirely digital, security is extremely important.

As the first professional football club with a dedicated Bitcoin team, we have years of experience working in financial institutions. We bring best practices from there to our protocols and procedures of anything finance-related in Botev.

Many people start dealing with cryptocurrencies because you can make – and lose – huge amounts of money very quickly through trading. Do you think Bitcoin can improve the club’s financial situation? Aren’t you worried about the volatility?

We have an unshakeable conviction that Bitcoin will play a key role in the financial prosperity of every sports club globally. We actually recently established our El Salvador company as part of our strategy to accumulate Bitcoins in the Bitcoin Country.

While Bitcoin is volatile on a weekly or monthly basis, on a multi-annual basis it is the best store of value humanity has discovered. A successful football club is built over years and hence Bitcoin can provide the financial fuel to grow a club over years and decades. At Botev Plovdiv FC we have a huge legacy behind us. We honor that legacy and aspire to leave a legacy for our club and industry.

Finally, Bulgarian football has been dominated by Ludogorec Razgrad over the past decade. Do you believe that the gap between the two teams can narrow in the coming years after defeating them in the recent cup final? Is a podium finish or even a championship title a realistic goal?

Indeed, Ludogorec are currently the best Bulgarian club. It takes proof of work to catch up to them. And we don’t fear work. On the opposite, we embrace it and invest time to level up our players on the field and our business organization off the field. With more hard work, I am convinced it is only a matter of time before we become Bulgaria’s champion and then march on to my personal goal of beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The best is yet to come. One goal at a time.

In the following interview, George Manolov reveals the Bitcoin strategy of the Bulgarian football team, Botev Plovdiv, how they integrated it into the club’s operations, and what they expect from it in the future. If you want to follow the team’s progress, you can do so in the Parva Liga starting on July 19.