David Elleray

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David Elleray
Full name David Roland Elleray
Born (1954-09-03) 3 September 1954 (age 65)
Dover, Kent, England
Other occupation Technical Director, IFAB
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. As of May 2016 he held the position of Technical Director at the IFAB.[2]

During his career as a prominent 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"[3] and "posh" by the press.[4] 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.[3][5][6] He won a scholarship to read geography at Hertford College, Oxford and was a keen rugby player and rower.[7] 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.[8]


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[9] 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.[10][3]

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.[3][11]

During his refereeing career, Elleray is remembered for a number of incidents, including awarding a dubious penalty kick to Manchester United in the 1994 FA Cup Final against Chelsea.[12] Elleray later admitted in his autobiography that he "blew without thinking" and although he knew he had made a mistake, he could not change his mind.[11][13] He was also the referee when Ryan Giggs scored his 'wonder goal' in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park, and when David Beckham scored from inside his own half against Wimbledon in 1996.[14] Even though he sent-off Manchester United's Roy Keane four times, when he retired Keane sent him a letter wishing him well and a signed jersey.[11][4]

Elleray was recognised by coaches, players and fans for being a firm, fair and consistent referee.[citation needed] 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!"[citation needed]

In 1999 Elleray had death threats from Manchester United supporters after making one or possibly two clear decisions which could have prevented Manchester United winning the title during a match against Liverpool at Anfield. The first being a decision to award Liverpool a penalty following a challenge by Jesper Blomqvist which was shown in replays to be a fair challenge and the second a decision to send off Dennis Irwin by giving a second yellow card after he passed the ball on after the whistle had gone for after foul. These decisions were claimed to have been responsible for Liverpool's revival to claim a 2 2 draw when before the decisions Manchester United were 2-0 ahead. The result however did not impact United's pole position or winning the title that season due to Arsenal losing at Leeds a few days later so therefore not taking advantage.

In 2002 Elleray was voted onto the FA Council as the member for Independent Schools.[15]

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 Blues defender Matthew Upson.[16]


In 2004 Elleray accepted the position as Honorary President of the Board of the Referees' Association of England for three years,[15] 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]

He has held the position of Technical Director for the International Football Association Board since at least May 2016.[2]

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.


  • Referee!: A Year in the Life David Elleray. Bloomsbury Publishing. 1998. ISBN 9780747536925.
  • The Man in the Middle. Time Warner. 2004. ISBN 9780751535808.[20]


  1. ^ Birthdate Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine confirmation (in German) at Weltfußball.de website.
  2. ^ a b "IFAB Advisory Panels Discuss Laws of the Game in Amsterdam". International Football Association Board. 18 May 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Wragg, Ted (5 June 1998). "Whistle while you work". Times Educational Supplement.
  4. ^ a b "Sporting Spotlight: David Elleray". BBC Sport. 27 March 2013.
  5. ^ "My Sport: David Elleray". Daily Telegraph. 13 May 2003.
  6. ^ "OPA Newsletter Jan 2005". dovergrammar.co.uk.
  7. ^ "U is for umpires (referees and other officials)". campaign.ox.ac.uk. August 2011. Archived from the original on 22 September 2012.
  8. ^ Interview: Singer & Friedlander (at the University of Leicester).
  9. ^ "Sport Football: Men in the middle of an official revolution". The Independent. 27 September 1998.
  10. ^ Old Harrovians Association FC history
  11. ^ a b c "Triumph and despair". Observer. 1 August 2004.
  12. ^ Controversial penalty to Man Utd, 1994 FA Cup Final, v. Chelsea: match details from ManUtdZone.com website.
  13. ^ Elleray, David (2004). The Man In The Middle. Time Warner Books. p. 116. ISBN 0-316-72714-8.
  14. ^ "David Elleray". Retrieved 13 November 2007.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ a b Biographical quotes: Forum at OfficialSports.co.uk website.
  16. ^ Last ever match as referee, Newcastle v. Birmingham, 2003: soccerbase.com website.
  17. ^ "ISFA Officials & Executive Committee". Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  18. ^ "Honorary doctorate means I've gone from ref to rap". shu.ac.uk. 19 November 2010.
  19. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b18.
  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