Former SBS sports presenter Les Murray has passed away at the age of 71.
Born in Hungary as László Ürge, he came with his family to Australia in the late 1950s as refugees fleeing the Russian occupation.
In the early 1970s he became a journalist and later commentated the Philips Soccer League for the 0-10 Network.
When SBS was establishing its television service in 1980, Murray was initially hired as a translator and subtitler of the channel’s Hungarian programs. Just days before the channel was to go to air, a chance meeting with an executive saw Murray chosen to co-host the live coverage of the Philips Soccer League grand final from Canberra.
From that point on he became the face of football for SBS, fronting the network’s ongoing football coverage including World Soccer, Toyota World Sports, On The Ball, The World Game and eight World Cups.
He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2006 for services to football in Australia.
Being a member of a rock group, The Rubber Band, in the 1970s, Murray revisited his musical interest on SBS with a performance on the 2010 special Eurovision A To Z. He sung the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest winner Nel blu dipinto di blu — better known as Volare.
He retired from SBS in 2014, the same year he was inducted into the Football Federation of Australia Hall Of Fame.
SBS managing director Michael Ebeid has paid tribute in a statement: “No one better embodied what SBS represents than Les Murray. From humble refugee origins, he became one of Australia’s most recognised and loved sporting identities. Not just a football icon, but a great Australian story and an inspiration to many, to say that his contribution to SBS and to football was enormous, doesn’t do it justice. This is a devastating loss for all of us at SBS. Our thoughts are with his family and all who loved him.”
Tributes for Murray have also come from sports and media personalities as well as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Shorten has suggested that Murray receive a state funeral.
Les Murray is survived by partner Maria and daughters Tania and Natalie.