CBS Sports' extensive coverage of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League will now include a new UEFA documentary series "Man in the Middle," offering a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of top referees, what it takes to handle the job and the impact of VAR. The four-part series will begin on November 30 and be available on CBS All Access.
Each episode is 48 minutes long, and it will also examine the impact COVID-19 had on the game and the wild finish to last season's competition in Portugal.
Here are the episodes, the dates in which they will air and a preview of each:
Episode No. 1 – Nov. 30
For the opening episode of the series, the story focuses on UEFA's introduction of the VAR system for the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League 2018-19 Season.
Here Roberto Rosetti, UEFA Chief Referee Officer, introduces the viewer to the world of UEFA referees and talks through the new processes in place. The episode also looks at a number of key VAR incidents and details the ups and downs in vital matches, with unprecedented access to a selection of Europe's leading referees: Clément Turpin from France, Björn Kuipers from the Netherlands and Damir Skomina from Slovenia, who would later be chosen to referee that season's UCL Final in Madrid between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC. Other referees featured include Cüneyt Çakır from Turkey, Szymon Marciniak from Poland and Felix Zwayer from Germany.
Episode No. 2 – Dec. 7
Set during the Group Stage of the 2019-20 season, episode two takes a deeper look into the psychology of refereeing. With the expert opinion of lecturer and author Stuart Carrington, the episode examines not only why somebody would want to become a referee, but also how they have to learn to deal with the many different high pressure situations they find themselves in. This episode also introduces two new referees in depth. First the emotional story of Ovidiu Haţegan, who had to deal with the situation of finding out about the death of his mother at half time, whilst refereeing an elite level match in the UEFA Nations League. The viewer is then also told the story of Gianlucca Rocchi, an Italian referee who was forced to retire mid-season due to mandatory age limits, but not before refereeing a high profile match between Chelsea and Ajax that season. Other referees newly featured are William Collum from Scotland and Michael Oliver from England.
Episode No. 3 – Dec. 14
Episode three begins with the knockout phase matches from the 2019-20 season, which were played before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place across Europe. The viewer then follows the stories of the referees during lockdown and through Werner Helsen, the UEFA Referee Fitness Coach, learn how group seminars and Zoom workout sessions played a key part in keeping the group together. Away from refereeing duties on the pitch, three new referees are introduced; part-time Police Inspector Danny Makkelie explains his passion for both his jobs, as well as introducing his family story, before Anthony Taylor shows us how important a time this is to volunteer and help people whenever you can. Finally, Carlos del Cerro Grande explains the joys of refereeing and why it's important to remember "respect" should be a key value in football and in life/
Episode No. 4 – Dec. 21
In the final instalment of the series, episode four picks up the story where it left off previously, with UEFA's plans to implement the "Return to Play" project. Equipment and technology also play a key role in refereeing and here the focus turns to two key partners, as the viewers hear from Hawkeye and Macron on how they deliver equipment and clothing to help the referees focus on the job at hand. Lastly, the episode hears from the referees involved in the final eight tournament and navigates its way to the culmination of the 2019-20 season, hearing from Italian referee Daniele Orsato regarding his role during the final between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Bayern Munich.