Former Premier League Referee Steve Bennett Resigns as Head of Refereeing in Greece
Former Premier League referee Steve Bennett has stepped down from his position as the head of refereeing for the Greek Football Association (FA), citing interference from the president. Bennett, who officiated in the Premier League from 1999 to 2010, claimed that the president had overridden his decision to appoint a team of Greek referees for the match between Panathinaikos and AEK Athens, instead bringing in a foreign team through UEFA.
In an official statement, the 62-year-old expressed his sadness over the situation, stating, “It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of my decision to resign as head of refereeing and chairman of the referee’s committee (CRC) as of today, 23.09.2023.” He further explained, “I was left with no option following the president’s deliberate interference in the appointments of MD5 (matchday five) when I had appointed a Greek Team to officiate Panathinaikos v AEK Athens.”
Bennett emphasized that throughout his tenure, he had always acted with integrity and honesty, adhering to the regulations set by UEFA and FIFA. However, he lamented that the Hellenic Football Federation (HFF) did not seem to share the same commitment to these principles.
In response to Bennett’s resignation, the president of the HFF stated, “Mr. Bennett’s refusal to change the selection of the Greek referee in the Panathinaikos-AEK match and his subsequent resignation is his own personal choice. I regret that under the specific circumstances, I am obliged to accept his resignation and to ask the Professional Football Commission next Wednesday to appoint a new referee (chief).”
The appointment of foreign officials for important matches in Greece is not a new phenomenon. In recent years, every major derby in the country has been refereed by foreign referees, as native officials have often been accused of bias by competing teams. Additionally, UEFA officials have overseen the play-off stage of the top flight. Although UEFA withdrew their referees from the Greek league towards the end of the previous season, they have provided officials for the upcoming match.
Bennett’s time in Greece has not been without controversy. Olympiacos, owned by Nottingham Forest’s Evangelos Marinakis, accused him of corruption after their B team refused to continue playing in a match against Kallithea last year. The controversy arose when a goal was incorrectly awarded to Kallithea despite two players being offside. Furthermore, Olympiacos B was unjustly denied an equalizer due to a handball offense committed by a Kallithea player, which was wrongly attributed to them by the refereeing team.
The Central Refereeing Committee reviewed the footage of the match and acknowledged the clear and obvious mistake made by the referees. They issued a statement accepting full responsibility for their actions and apologizing for the error.
It is worth noting that Bennett is not the first British referee to be involved in the administration of Greek football. Mark Clattenburg assumed the role in 2020, and Scotland’s Hugh Dallas has also held the position.
In conclusion, Steve Bennett’s resignation as head of refereeing for the Greek FA highlights the ongoing challenges faced by referees in maintaining their independence and integrity. The controversy surrounding the appointment of foreign officials and allegations of corruption further underscore the need for transparency and accountability in football administration. As the Greek football authorities move forward, it is crucial that they prioritize fair play and uphold the highest standards of refereeing to ensure the integrity of the game.