Greek ref chief Steve Bennett resigns as he accuses president of interference

Former Premier League referee Steve Bennett has quit his role as head of refereeing of the Greek FA — accusing the president of interfering in his work.

Bennett, a Premier League referee between 1999 and 2010, said he had selected a team of Greek referees to take charge of the game between Panathinaikos and AEK Athens, only for a foreign team to be brought in through UEFA.

The 62-year-old said: “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.

“I was left with no option following the president’s deliberate interference of the appointments of MD5 (matchday five) when I had appointed a Greek Team to officiate Panathinaikos v AEK Athens.

“The president went to UEFA to find a foreign team and then expected me to announce It as a decision by the CRC.

“Throughout my time here I’ve acted with integrity, honesty but most importantly within the framework of the UEFA and FIFA referee regulations, sadly, HFF (Hellenic Football Federation) do not appear to want to follow in the same way.”

The president of the HFF responded: “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).”

In the past four seasons, every big derby in Greece was refereed by foreign officials — native officials are routinely accused of bias by the competing sides. The play-off stage of the top flight was also overseen by UEFA officials. UEFA pulled their referees out of involvement in the Greek league towards the end of last season, although they have provided officials for Monday’s game.

Bennett has been criticised during his time in Greece. Olympiacos, who are owned by Nottingham Forest’s Evangelos Marinakis, accused him of corruption after their B team refused to come out for a second-half during a match against Kallithea last year.

Kallithea had a goal wrongly awarded despite two players being offside. Olympiacos B were also wrongly denied an equaliser, with the refereeing team for the game — which did not include Bennett, who had an oversight role in the country — giving a handball despite the offence being carried out by a Kallithea player.

A statement from the Central Refereeing Committee read: “Having reviewed footage of the match, it is clear that the referees made a clear and obvious mistake and without VAR the decision could not have been changed. The assistant referee saw a picture that he deemed a handball offence. The referees accept full responsibility for their actions and apologise for their error.”

Bennett is not the first British referee brought in to help run the Greek leagues. Mark Clattenburg took the job in 2020, while Scotland’s Hugh Dallas has also held the role.

(Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

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