Bennett's £1m mistake costs Town

THE red card handed to George O'Callaghan by referee Steve Bennett for an alleged stamp on Watford defender Dan Shittu has been rescinded by a three-man appeals panel which sat yesterday afternoon.

By Derek Davis

THE red card handed to George O'Callaghan by referee Steve Bennett for an alleged stamp on Watford defender Dan Shittu has been rescinded by a three-man appeals panel which sat yesterday afternoon. Here, EADT football writer Derek Davis writes an open letter to Mr Bennett about the consequences of that incorrect decision on Ipswich Town.

Open letter to Mr Steve Bennett

Premier League referee


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Dear Mr Bennett,

I hope this letter finds you in rude health. Mr Magilton described you as “stunning” in the aftermath of Ipswich's defeat at Watford - a defeat caused in no small part by your incorrect decision to send off George O'Callaghan.

On Monday you were no doubt anticipating a big game this week and perhaps even took in the FA Cup draw wondering if you would get a Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United tie. I can't imagine you would have wanted Watford again, especially down at Plymouth.

The Ipswich camp obviously had no interest in the draw, having being deprived by your decision on Saturday.

No one can say with any certainty what would have happened if you had not got it wrong by sending O'Callaghan off.

But given the way he ran the game in the first half there is every chance he could have made the difference in the second half and instead of losing 1-0 the result may well have been different.

Even a draw would have made a massive difference to Ipswich Town in terms of finance.

The 4,500 Blue supporters who left Vicarage Road proud but defeated may well have had a whole lot more to celebrate.

A replay would have made Ipswich a further £100,000 in gate receipts alone. If they got through it would have meant £120,000 and, no disrespect to Plymouth, a decent chance of making the FA Cup semi-finals and the untold riches that would bring.

We are probably talking in excess of £1m for a club where £1m means a hell of a lot.

That is not to even dwell on the human side. Jim Magilton, in his first managerial job, would be feeling a lot more secure this morning, his team a lot more confident and upbeat and with 14 league games to go that could be the difference between slipping into a relegation dogfight and pushing for the play-offs.

While you may have spent the intervening days between Saturday and the appeal on Tuesday relaxing, the player involved has suffered a traumatic time.

Devastated at the time because he knew that an injustice had been served, O'Callaghan was facing the prospect of a three-match ban after his very first start for a new club.

The financial repercussions he would have suffered pale into insignificance compared to the heartache of not being able to play, and even though the ban was overturned he was left out of the squad to play Wolves due to all the uncertainty caused by your decision.

No one would suggest you didn't make what you thought was the right decision at the time, but perhaps you will put pressure on the relevant authorities to use technology to help officials in future. That might eliminate mistakes like these, which can have such consequences.

It may also help all those managers, players and fans who are affected by such decisions.

Derek Davis

Chief Football Writer

East Anglian Daily Times

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