As the country's most prominent TV presenter of soccer, Murray played a major role in the sport's growing popularity in Australia beginning in the 1980s. Murray coined the phrase "The World Game", which later became the title of SBS's soccer programme.
Murray was born as László Ürge in a small village on the outskirts of Budapest, Hungary, the son of József and Erzsébet Ürge. The family immigrated to Australia in 1957 under the Hungarian Refugee Assisted Scheme. They resided at Wollongong, New South Wales after some time at Bonegilla Migrant Camp near Wodonga. He was educated at Berkeley High School (now Illawarra Sports High School).
He decided to anglicise his name because Ürge was difficult for non-Hungarians to pronounce and made him prone to taunts. The surname Murray was suggested by his father, as "Muray" is also Hungarian for "of the Mura River".
Murray's passion for soccer, in which he had been interested from an early age, was sparked after watching a replay of the 1960 European Cup Final. He began work as a journalist in 1971. In between, he found time to perform in a rock music group, 'The Rubber Band' where he was lead singer. He moved to Network Ten as a commentator in 1977, changing his name from László Ürge to Les Murray at that time.
Murray moved to SBS in 1980 as a Hungarian language subtitler but soon turned to covering soccer. He was the host for SBS coverage of soccer including the World Cups from 1986 to 2014, as well as Australia's World Cup Qualifiers, most memorably in 1997, 2001 and 2005. He also anchored the SBS team at friendlies and international tournaments in which junior and women's national teams are competing.
SBS sports programs hosted by him have included On the Ball (1984–2000), Toyota World Sports (c. 1990 – 2006) and The World Game (2001–present).
Murray was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to soccer on 12 June 2006 as part of the Queen's Birthday honours list.
In 2006, Murray stepped down from his position as SBS's Sports Director to become an editorial supervisor for SBS, while his on-air role remained the same. His main motive for this decision was to concentrate on his range of presentation duties as the 'face' of SBS Sport.
He was a member of the FIFA Ethics Committee.
In August 2011, Murray won the inaugural 'Blogger of the Year' award at the FFDU Australian Football Media awards, ultimately defeating fellow finalists Matthew Collard and Christian Layland.
In 2011, Murray published a book titled The World Game: The Story of How Football Went Global, in which Murray cited an undisclosed source in alleging that Lucas Neill, the captain of the Socceroos, had instigated a mutiny just before the Germany v Australia game at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Murray alleged that Neill had asked his coach, Pim Verbeek, to leave the room, before describing Verbeek's game-plan as "bullshit" and erasing what the Dutchman had written on a whiteboard, telling the team to play like they normally do.
The publication of this story was followed by responses from team members who had been eyewitnesses of the actual events, including Craig Moore, Eugene Galeković and Mile Jedinak, stating that no event, as portrayed in Murray's book, ever occurred. Neill protested that before the Germany game it was Mark Schwarzer, and not Neill himself, who had given the team pep talk. A few days after the allegations hit the news, Murray retracted his allegations with a full apology, with an undertaking that future editions of his book would have the relevant portion deleted.
In June 2014 he announced his retirement as chief soccer commentator on SBS, to begin after the FIFA World Cup, although he continued to appear in guest spots on SBS.
Murray has two daughters, Tania, a singer-songwriter, and Natalie, a television journalist and presenter.
On 31 July 2017, it was announced that Murray had died following an illness. He was 71 years old. He was given a state funeral at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.Murray appeared with the Australian alternative rock band TISM in their song What Nationality Is Les Murray? Murray can be seen on their video Gold! Gold!! Gold!!! accepting an ARIA Award on behalf of TISM for the album Machiavelli and the Four Seasons, on which the song appears.
Ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Melbourne band, Vaudeville Smash released soccer anthem "Zinedine Zidane". The song features Murray rhyming the names of soccer greats such as Juan Sebastián Verón with Gianluigi Buffon.
The SBS comedy/variety show In Siberia Tonight regularly featured a segment with host Steve Abbott talking to Indira Naidoo at the "Les Murray Bar".