Les Murray - End of an Era

SBS's Mr Football steps down after the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

SBS today announced the 2014 FIFA World CupTM in Brazil will mark Les Murray's last as SBS Chief Football Host and Editorial Supervisor, ahead of his semi-retirement later this year after 34 years with SBS.

Known throughout Australia as Mr Football, and one of the founding and most iconic personalities of SBS, Les Murray has been both the face and voice of football (soccer) in Australia since the sport's first free to air broadcast on the network in 1980.

As the most prominent commentator and presenter of football on Australian television, Les is credited with championing the monumental rise in popularity of the sport in this country through the 1980s and 1990s and is respected, both in Australia and internationally, as a foremost authority on football and as the game's pioneering and tireless promoter.

Les's departure does not signal his exit from the sport and SBS entirely. His knowledge and insights remain in his new role as expert contributor across SBS's football slate, which he will take on from December this year, and he will continue to mentor the established SBS commentary and hosting teams.

SBS first broadcast the final of the FIFA World Cup in 1986 with Les at the helm. The first full broadcast of the FIFA World Cup was in 1990 and the 2014 FIFA World CupTM in Brazil signals his eighth as Chief Football Host of the broadcast team.

Les Murray said, "It's not an easy decision to step down from doing what I have enjoyed so much for over three decades. But, as Johnny Warren used to tell me, you have to allow yourself a point when you can smell the roses you've planted.

"I hope I can legitimately claim that football is in a better place now than it was when SBS and I first went on a mission to build its profile. And I have to say I couldn't have done any of it without the total support of SBS management. This could simply not have been done at any other network.

"I look forward to playing a bit more golf and playing football with my grandsons, while still maintaining my association with SBS and football.

"My older grandson is two years old. I have to start working on his left foot."

SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid said, "Les is one of the founding and iconic faces of SBS, and he has made an extraordinary and invaluable contribution, not only to the SBS football broadcast team, but in building the very culture of the organisation. His endless passion for the game and for SBS as a whole has been inspiring and infectious.

"I am very pleased that Les will continue to play an important role as an expert in our team of SBS football analysts - as I am sure his many fans will be, too.

"Mr Football will always be part of the SBS family and the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil will be a celebration not only of this fantastic sport but of Les's final as lead of the World Cup broadcast team."

SBS Director of Sport Ken Shipp said, "Les has been instrumental in building the profile of football not only as a major sport platform for SBS but more importantly, integral at establishing football as a premium sport in Australia.

"Les has been a colleague and a great friend of mine for many years. He has also been a personal mentor to me and we have developed a mutual respect for each other. Les is a true professional and I rate his talent amongst the best in Australian Television.

"However, we won't let Les fade into retirement that easy. Here, at SBS, we will continue to draw from Les's knowledge and experience to help us further shape our on air presentation team.

"He will also continue to have a voice in his regular blog for The World Game website and from time to time you'll see him re-appear on your TV screens, as he continues his presence as the elder statesman of football coverage in Australia."

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is live and exclusive on SBS from Friday 13 June to Monday 14 July.

The SBS 2014 FIFA World Cup broadcast schedule can be downloaded here.

Les Murray profile

Les Murray 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 FIFA World Cup, 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 1996 Les was appointed SBS Head of Sport, successfully negotiated the broadcast rights of the FIFA World Cup through three additional contracts, the Tour de France and the IAAF World Athletics Championships. In 2006 Les stepped down as Head of Sport to return to his first love, sports journalism, and is now SBS Sport's Editorial Supervisor, while retaining his role as frontline presenter, commentator and columnist.

Along with his late friend and cohort, the former Socceroos captain Johnny Warren, Les is credited with causing the immense rise in awareness and popularity of football in Australia in the past two decades. It was Les who coined the label 'the world game' in the mid-1980s to describe his beloved sport, a phrase that has since become not only a term of common usage, but a brand in itself.

In 2006 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia. He 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 10 most influential people in sport. He is a former chairman of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Sports Group and is a director of the Johnny Warren Football Foundation. In 2009 Les received the Australian Sports Commission's Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to sports journalism.

Les's 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.