In the Middle
Dedicated to the referees who run matches in grassroots football, In the Middle reflects on the authority figure who is both respected and disliked but always essential on a football pitch. Directed and produced by Greg Cruttwell, the British film won the Best Screenplay Award at the 2022 Paladino d’Oro Sports Film Festival in Palermo.
As one of the protagonists of the documentary says, there can be no football without referees. This role is especially fascinating at a non-professional level, where there are no lucrative financial incentives nor the prestige of working in the top leagues: the only driving factor is passion for the game. Not only are the material gains limited at amateur and semi-professional levels, but the job notoriously involves being regularly subjected to verbal abuse by players and spectators alike. In the Middle is an ode to the unsung heroes, thanks to whom the minor leagues can keep going and, in doing so, benefit the football industry at large.
The documentary follows a diverse group of grassroots football officials during the 2019-20 season, which happened to be interrupted by the Covid-19 lockdowns. Referees of different ages, backgrounds, genders and levels of experience relate the ups and downs of the amateur roles that they fulfil in their free time and that they perform with great professionalism and dedication. Some footage takes place on the pitch and in the changing rooms, but many one-to-one interviews are filmed in the referees’ respective homes or as they go about their daily lives, giving a fuller perspective of their experience and how football fits into their lives.
The enthusiasm of the interviewees makes this a heartwarming and sweet documentary that will likely induce many smiles. It’s not only interesting for football fans, but also very insightful from a social perspective: by going into the homes of an eclectic mix of people from different walks of life, it offers fascinating snapshots of their lives. Moreover, it holds historical value as it fills a gap in the field of sports documentaries by exploring and celebrating a small but vital category of people within the world of football, giving them their due recognition.
In the Middle is released in cinemas on 31st March 2023 and digitally on demand on 1st May 2023.
Watch the trailer for In the Middle here: