Knicks and Rangers fans were horribly teased earlier today, when news of the owner of a professional sports franchise being gunned down hit the wires. Alas, said killing took place in Bulgaria, where Lokomotiv Plovdiv would otherwise be looking forward to their UEFA Cup tie with Bolton Wanderers. From the Times :

Lokomotiv Plovdiv owner Georgi Iliev, 39, was killed on Thursday after the team beat OFK Belgrade in the cup. Mr Iliev, who ran hotels and clubs, was killed as he talked on a mobile phone at one of his bars by the Black Sea.

It was the latest in a series of shootings and bombings that have been blamed on Bulgaria™s underworld. The criminality has scarred the country™s image as it vies for entry to the European Union in 2007.

Police said that Mr Iliev had faced criminal charges in the past. His brother, a suspected mob boss, was murdered in 1995. Boiko Borisov, of the Interior Ministry, said yesterday: œWe had several operations on drug-trafficking, especially of cocaine, and we have operational data which leads to him.