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Breakfast with Frost
David Ellery
BBC Breakfast With Frost Interview with David Ellery

May 11th, 2003

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Frost, that's right. The Premiership season draws to a close today as we were just saying, but one of the best known faces in, in English football will be missing come kick off. David Ellery, who's combined keeping order on the pitch and keeping order in the classroom at Harrow, he's hanging up his whistle, if that's the correct image, after 17 years as a top flight referee and as I seem to recall 1780 matches. The Harrow schoolmaster's distinctive forehead made him instantly recognisable. His reputation for discipline and cool decision making earned him an international call up from Fifa at Euro 96. He refused to shy away from controversial decisions even on the biggest stages awarding two penalties when he took charge of the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1994 and the man is here himself, right now, welcome David.

DAVID ELLERY: Thank you very much.

DAVID FROST: Seventeen, seventeen hundred and eighty matches they say here, and 246 red cards?


DAVID FROST: Yes, including four for Roy Keane, was he your most doubty adversary?

DAVID ELLERY: I, I, statistically yes, but in fact he and I got on very well and before that, the final time I sent him off we'd gone five matches without even a yellow card and perhaps foolishly I joked in the tunnel with him beforehand "let's see if we can make it six matches without a card Roy" and then we didn't. But he was always a very competitive footballer, I never had any issue with him in terms of dissent or arguing or aggression with me but just occasionally his, his aggression took him a bit far.

DAVID FROST: When you're looking and when you talk refereeing, is there a, he's called one of the hard men of football like Vinnie Jones was and so on, is there a difference between a hard man of football and a, what privately you might all decide was a dirty player?

DAVID ELLERY: Yes I think there is, I mean the thing, the great thing about Roy Keane was what you saw is what you got and he was a tough player but it was open. I think what referees don't like are, are the, the snide, cynical players who create difficulties behind your back, off the ball, who over-react when they're just of pushed on the chest and they down holding their face. I think they're the sorts of players that referees and indeed everybody dislikes most.

DAVID FROST: And without naming names which is scarcely practical, how many of those are there in the premiership, 20?

DAVID ELLERY: Fewer than that I would say, fewer than that. I think we're very lucky, I remember very early on in ... refereeing a game with Davon Suker and he came, his first game for Arsenal, we chatted beforehand and early in the game he was fouled and rolled over and over and over and I said to him Mr Suker we do not behave like that in England. And he apologised and I think they accept that in England we're far less tolerant of play-acting than perhaps they are in the continent.

DAVID FROST: You've been through so many rule changes, the time you've been there, about back passes and tackles from behind, adaptations of the off-side law. What would you say is the one most important rule change there ought to be now?

DAVID ELLERY: Well I would like to bring in the sin-bin, I'd like to replace the yellow card with a sin-bin.


DAVID ELLERY: Yes it just seems to be extraordinary that a player can be yellow-carded against five different teams perhaps for not very good fouls and then he's suspended and another team benefits who weren't offended against originally and it seems to me that natural justice would be that, that if Liverpool are playing Chelsea today and a player commits a bad foul, that he should be taken out of that game temporarily rather than suspended at the beginning of next season. So I'd like us to experiment with sin-bin and just have instant justice during a game.

DAVID FROST: Wouldn't it also help if the 4th official did the timing of the game, because it must be a real pressure to work out how many extra minutes?

DAVID ELLERY: Well they almost do these days ...

DAVID FROST: They do more...


DAVID FROST: Because Andy Durso got attacked after Bolton versus Arsenal?

DAVID ELLERY: I mean what happens is there's a little bit of interaction between the referee and the 4th official and what I say to the 4th official is that actually you work out how many extra minutes you think I should be playing, flash that to me and if I agree I'll give you a thumbs up, if I want to change it I'll go up or down, so ...

DAVID FROST: Right but so there, are there, it's like Prince Mon a lou-lou, tic-tac.

DAVID ELLERY: Tic-tacs, yes.

DAVID FROST: Three, if you have to be more careful if it's two minutes I suppose?


DAVID FROST: But what, who was the best player, most graceful player you, you refereed?

DAVID ELLERY: Well Glen Hoddle was pretty impressive at his prime as is Beckham in his prime and I've always like players with the wonderful skill to pass the ball 20, 30, 40, 50 yards and can think of Beckham sending it across the field, I can think of Glen Hoddle doing the same. They were two really graceful but the most powerful player I think is Renaldo, I remember refereeing him in Barcelona and he just scored with this amazing header and the strength that somebody can apply with their head to a football was, was sensational.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of, how many times do you play, do you, say you referee Arsenal and Manchester United let's say, two or three times ...

DAVID ELLERY: Two or three times a season typically yes.

DAVID FROST: And so you have this absolute up-close view, now Arsenal won the first half of the season and Manchester United won the ..


DAVID FROST: Even more important second half of the season, was that what you expected having been that close to both sides?

DAVID ELLERY: I was surprised I thought it would go all the way and I thought we would almost have a situation with a play-off which was what we thought two or three weeks ago. And then it just seemed that there was that Bolton result which seemed to tip it psychologically from Arsenal along with the 1-1 draw at Highbury.

DAVID FROST: And so now today will you feel a sense of bereavement?

DAVID ELLERY: I think the toughest time will be the beginning of next season. At the moment I'm deluding myself that it's just the end of the season and somehow I'll get a letter and next season I'll be there. But I think the opening day of next season will be awful I don't know what I'll do.

DAVID FROST: Well it's jolly enjoyable to have you with us and we hope you don't have to give 246 red cards in up-coming school matches.

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