Review: ‘The Referees’

Any soccer fan who's longed to eavesdrop on the onfield dialogue between headset-wearing referees will get a kick out of this docu.

Any soccer fan who’s longed to eavesdrop on the onfield dialogue between headset-wearing referees will get a kick out of this docu, which tracks its subjects as they adjudicate the 2008 European Championship. Focusing particularly on the refereeing team from England, pic also captures the men as they reflect, relax and face rebuke. Result makes fascinating viewing for lovers of the sport, but early substitution is a likely fate in cinemas before extra ancillary time.

In addition to the conflicts on the field, one refereeing decision ignites a strong reaction in the wider world when England’s Howard Webb awards a late penalty to host Austria in a match against Poland, prompting Poland’s prime minister to declare he wants to kill Webb, who’s forced to consider police protection. Further drama is supplied by the suspense over which refs will be selected to remain for the competition’s knockout stages, but the film lacks a gripping narrative arc. The decision to not identify participants is more in tune with film festivals than with TV viewers, though subtitling of the referees’ distorted audio feed is a wise concession. Original title was “Kill the Referee.”

The Referees



A Soda Pictures (in U.K.) release of an Entre Chien et Loup production. (International sales: UEFA, Nyon, Switzerland.) Produced by Jean Libon. Executive producer, Michel Vallier. Directed by Yves Hinant, Eric Cardot, Lehericey Delphine.


Camera (color, HD), Antonio Capurso, Manolo D'Arthuys, David Gladsteen, Didier Hill-Derive, Vincent Hufty, Cyril Blaise; editor, Francoise Tourmen; music, Van Romaine. Reviewed on DVD, London, Aug. 5, 2011. Running time: 81 MIN.


Howard Webb, Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez, Roberto Rosetti, Michel Platini, Peter Frojdfeldt, Massimo Busacca, Pierluigi Collina. (English, Italian, French dialogue)

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