President of the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation Arif Majed, third from right, has been blocked in attempts to initiate reforms, leading to the European Championships being moved to Albania ©Arif Majed

A weightlifting leadership dispute in Bulgaria has forced a change of date and venue for the 2022 European Championships.

The Championships have been moved from their traditional date in April to late May, and will be hosted by the Albanian capital Tirana instead of the original venue of Sofia, Bulgaria.

The decision was taken by the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) Executive Board yesterday because of uncertainty over the situation in Bulgaria, which was described by the EWF President Antonio Conflitti as "chaos."

Arif Majed, who has pledged to reform Bulgarian weightlifting after it was "lost in space for the last 10 years", has been blocked in his attempt to initiate reforms after being elected President of the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation by a large majority last May.

Majed cannot be recognised by the EWF because of "local politics that have caused a big problem for weightlifting" said Antonio Conflitti, President of the EWF.

Bulgaria’s National Olympic Committee initially validated Majed’s position but because the new leadership was not officially entered on Bulgaria’s commercial register, after protests, it withdrew its validation.

An aerial view of Tirana in Albania, the new venue for this year's European Weightlifting Championships ©Getty Images
An aerial view of Tirana in Albania, the new venue for this year's European Weightlifting Championships ©Getty Images

The previous President Nedelcho Kolev, is officially recognised by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) - even though Majed is named as President on the IWF website - and the EWF must not contradict the global governing body.

"We cannot afford to risk it," said Conflitti, who said it was the EWF’s responsibility to find a solution that avoided "uncertainty".

Formal contractual arrangements cannot be made in Bulgaria until the dispute between Kolev and Majed is settled.

An attempt to bring Kolev into the hosting plans by putting him in charge of the Organising Committee in Sofia had failed, Conflitti said, adding: "Kolev said he would not work with Majed."

This is the second time in recent years that the European Championships have been moved at short notice, and Albania was involved then, too.

Because of a doping scandal, the Albanian federation had to withdraw as hosts in late January 2018, within weeks of the Championships. Romania eventually hosted the event at 46 days notice.

The 2022 Championships in Tirana are now due to run from May 25 to June 5.