Les Murray is known as both the face and voice of football (soccer) in Australia. As the most prominent commentator and presenter of football on Australian television, he is credited with championing the monumental rise in popularity of the sport in his country through the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. He is otherwise known throughout Australia as Mr Football.
Les immigrated to Australia from his native Hungary as an 11-year old refugee in 1957. He tells a fascinating migration story, of how his family escaped from Soviet oppression, crossing the border in dangerous circumstances and finding a new home in Australia. In 2001 Les took part in a TV documentary describing his mission to return to Hungary to find the people smuggler who delivered his family to freedom.
With a love of football already part of his baggage, he was shocked to find that Australia was not a country in which football was the national sport. Subconsciously, even as a child, he began his long quest to convert Australians to ‘the beautiful game’, a quest that continues to this day.
He began his journalism career in newspapers in 1972 but his big break came when he joined SBS Television in 1980, first as a Hungarian sub-titler and then as football commentator, presenter and eventually as producer. In the ensuing years he anchored, and was the Executive Producer of, the broadcasts of eight editions of football’s FIFA World Cup, five editions of the UEFA European Championship and annual coverage of the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup Final, Australia’s National Soccer League (NSL) and covered all of the Socceroos’ World Cup campaigns between 1986 and 2006. In that period SBS twice carried off the coveted Logie, for Most Outstanding Sports Coverage, and SBS achieved record audiences which still stand today.
In 1996 Les was appointed SBS Head of Sport and ran up a stellar executive career. The network extended its football profile into the online medium, launching the stunningly successful The World Game website, he successfully negotiated the broadcast rights of the FIFA World Cup through three additional contracts, the Tour de France and the IAAF World Athletics Championships. His vision and sense for broad strategy in brand-building leaves SBS in a strong position as one of Australia’s primary and most respected broadcasters of sport. In 2006 Les stepped down as Head of Sport to return to his first love, sports journalism.
He retired from full time employment in 2014, after 34 years service at SBS, but remains a contributor to the network. ‘You can retire from work but you can never retire from football,’ he says.
Les Murray is respected, both in Australia and internationally, as a foremost authority on football and as the game’s pioneering and tireless promoter. He, along with his late friend and cohort, the former Socceroo captain Johnny Warren, is credited with causing the immense rise in awareness and popularity of the sport in Australia in the past three decades. It was, for instance, Les who coined the label ‘the world game’ in the mid-1980s to describe his beloved sport, a term which since has not only become common usage but a brand.
His contribution to football and to sports broadcasting is broadly recognised. In 2006 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to sports journalism and football, is a member of Football Federation Australia’s Hall of Fame and was named by the French publication, L’Equipe, as one of Sydney’s ten most influential people in sport. He served as chairman of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Sports Group, as a director of the Johnny Warren Football Foundation and served for eight years on FIFA’s Ethics Committee.
In 2009 Les received the Australian Sports Commission’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to sports journalism.
Les’ authority and rich experience in sports journalism, broadcasting and business, make him a much sought-after figure, opinion-maker, writer, raconteur and skilled speaker. He has spoken at the United Nations and at many international forums, on all manner of subjects, including sport, broadcasting, the ethics of sport and the business of sport.
Les is sought after as a speaker on many topics not juts football. He has spoken on issues including refugees, cultural diversity, politics in sport and human rights.
Les has two daughters, Tania, a singer-songwriter, and Natalie, a television journalist and presenter, and three grandchildren, Brady, Alex and Aubrey. He has written or co-written four books, among them his autobiography, By The Balls (Random House), published in 2006.
Les Murray travels from New South Wales Australia
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