David Elleray

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David Elleray
Full name David Roland Elleray
Born (1954-09-03) 3 September 1954 (age 61)
Dover, Kent, England
Other occupation Teacher
Years League Role
?–? Hellenic League Referee
?–? Isthmian League Referee
1986–1992 The Football League Referee
1992–2003 Premier League Referee
Years League Role
1992–1999 FIFA listed Referee

David Roland Elleray MBE (born 3 September 1954[1] in Dover, Kent), is an English former football referee who officiated in the Football League, Premier League and for FIFA.

During his career as a prominent and respected referee in England, Elleray officiated a number of notable matches, including the FA Cup Final, the highest domestic honour for an English referee. Due to his Oxbridge background and "day job" as a teacher at a public school, Elleray has been described as "schoolmasterly"[2] and "posh" by the press.[3] His teaching role entailed time conflicts with his role as a leading referee before his retirement.

Early life[edit]

Elleray was educated at Dover Grammar School for Boys where he excelled at a range of sports and started refereeing football games at the age of 13 to earn extra pocket money.[2][4][5] He won a scholarship to read geography at Hertford College, Oxford and was a keen rugby player and rower.[6] While at university, he was promoted through the Hellenic, Isthmian and Panel Leagues and eventually become a Football League referee in 1986. He remained there until his inclusion on the original Premier League Referees' List in 1992, and also became a FIFA referee in that year.[7]


Elleray is a career geography teacher and spent over 30 years at Harrow School, where he held various leadership roles such as head of geography, director of boarding, and housemaster of Druries House[8] before his retirement in 2009. Early in his teaching career, he was noted for controversially reintroducing football (which had not been played there since 1927) at Harrow - a school better known for its rugby and cricket traditions - in 1977.[9][2]

Elleray stepped down as a FIFA-listed referee in 1999, having officiated 78 international matches in 35 countries. He officiated at Wembley Stadium 13 times but was unable to officiate at the 1998 World Cup in France due to school commitments.[2][10]

In 2002 Elleray was voted onto the FA Council as the member for Independent Schools.[11]

He retired from refereeing at the end of the 2002-03 season. His last match was Newcastle United's 1-0 win over Birmingham on 3 May 2003, during which he sent-off City defender Matthew Upson.[12]

Incidents of note[edit]

During his refereeing career, Elleray is remembered for a number of incidents:

  • Awarding a dubious penalty kick to Manchester United in the FA Cup Final 1994 against Chelsea.[13] Elleray admitted in his autobiography that he "blew without thinking" and although he knew he had made a mistake, he could not change his mind.[10][14]
  • Failing to award Chesterfield a goal during an FA Cup semi-final in 1997. A Jonathan Howard shot had hit the crossbar and then bounced over the line but was cleared by the Middlesbrough defence. His assistant flagged for a goal but Elleray over-ruled the decision and play continued. Had the goal been awarded Chesterfield would have gained a 3-1 lead against ten men. As it was, Middlesbrough equalised to make it 2-2 after 90 minutes, it finished 3-3 after extra time and Chesterfield lost the replay 3-0. In his autobiography Elleray disputes the reason for disallowing the goal.[15]
  • For being the referee when Ryan Giggs scored his 'wonder goal' in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park, and the day when David Beckham scored from inside his own half against Wimbledon in 1996.[16]
  • For failing to dismiss Arsenal's Steve Bould in January 1998 when he committed a professional foul on Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli who was through on goal in a League game. As a result, Elleray was suspended from refereeing duties for one match.
  • For failing to award Birmingham City a penalty in the 2001 Worthington Cup Final against Liverpool after Stephane Henchoz fouled Andrew Johnson in Extra Time. Birmingham went on to lose the match 5-4 on penalties.
  • Counting an own goal against Peter Enckelman during the Second City derby in 2002 after a throw-in back to the goalkeeper. It is disputed whether Enckelman made contact with the ball, and some believe if he had not then Elleray should have given the opposition a corner-kick under the laws of the game.
  • For having sent-off Manchester United's Roy Keane four times. When Elleray retired, Keane notably sent him a letter wishing him well and a signed jersey.[10][3]

Elleray was constantly recognised by coaches, players and fans for being a firm, fair and consistent referee. For example, after the 1994 FA Cup Final, UEFA president Lennart Johansson told Elleray: "Europe needs referees like you. I do not care whether the second penalty was a foul or not. The easy decision would to have given nothing. You showed strength and courage. Congratulations!"


In 2004 Elleray accepted the position as Honorary President of the Board of the Referees' Association of England for three years,[11] and was a FIFA and UEFA referee assessor and instructor. He was chairman of the Independent Schools Football Association.[17]

Elleray was awarded an honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University in 2010.[18] He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to football.[19]

One of the most recognisable figures in English football, Elleray's life featured in an award-winning documentary, The Man in Black, for Channel 4.



  1. ^ Birthdate confirmation (German) at Weltfußball.de website.
  2. ^ a b c d Wragg, Ted (5 June 1998). "Whistle while you work". Times Educational Supplement. 
  3. ^ a b "Sporting Spotlight: David Elleray". BBC Sport. 27 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "My Sport: David Elleray". Daily Telegraph. 13 May 2003. 
  5. ^ "OPA Newsletter Jan 2005". dovergrammar.co.uk. 
  6. ^ "U is for umpires (referees and other officials)". campaign.ox.ac.uk. August 2011. 
  7. ^ Interview: Singer & Friedlander (at the University of Leicester).
  8. ^ "Sport Football: Men in the middle of an official revolution". The Independent. 27 September 1998. 
  9. ^ Old Harrovians Association FC history
  10. ^ a b c "Triumph and despair". Observer. 1 August 2004. 
  11. ^ a b Biographical quotes: Forum at OfficialSports.co.uk website.
  12. ^ Last ever match as referee, Newcastle v. Birmingham, 2003: soccerbase.com website.
  13. ^ Controversial penalty to Man Utd, 1994 FA Cup Final, v. Chelsea: match details from ManUtdZone.com website.
  14. ^ Elleray, David (2004). The Man In The Middle. Time Warner Books. p. 116. ISBN 0-316-72714-8. 
  15. ^ Goal not given, for Chesterfield against Middlesbrough, 1997 FA Cup semi-final: the FA Cup at Everything2.com website.
  16. ^ "David Elleray". Retrieved 13 November 2007. 
  17. ^ ISFA Officials & Executive Committee
  18. ^ "Honorary doctorate means I've gone from ref to rap". shu.ac.uk. 19 November 2010. 
  19. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60895. p. b18. 14 June 2014.
  20. ^ "The day Elleray went to the Cup final in disguise". The Independent. 5 September 2004. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Keren Barratt
FA Cup Final Referee
Succeeded by
Gerald Ashby