Legendary referee Russ Bray set for Ally Pally farewell

Russ Bray (PDC)

Darts legend Russ Bray will referee his last televised ranking match in the 2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship final on January 3, as the popular official begins to wind down his stellar career.

Russ, whose distinctive tones have seen him earn a nickname as 'The Voice', has played an instrumental role in the sport's global growth over the last four decades, and he will begin a new role as a PDC ambassador in 2024.

Having represented Hertfordshire as a player at County level, Russ joined the PDC as a referee in July 1996, and this year's Alexandra Palace showpiece will mark his 28th and final World Championship behind the microphone.

The 66-year-old has starred in some of the sport's iconic moments, including the 2007 World Championship decider between Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld at the Circus Tavern.

He also refereed John Part's history-making victory over Taylor in 2003, and called in maiden World Championship titles for Adrian Lewis, Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2020 respectively.

Russ has also presided over 17 televised nine-darters so far, including Michael van Gerwen's 17 perfect darts at the 2013/14 World Championship, and Phil Taylor’s landmark nine-darter in 2002 – the first televised perfect leg in the PDC.

“I've had a magnificent career so far, and this game has given me so many opportunities and memories,” reflected 'The Voice', who will still represent the PDC on the World Series circuit in 2024.

“When you're part of the game, you’re going with the flow, with the rollercoaster, but when you look at the development of the sport since I joined the PDC in 1996, the difference is incredible.

“It’s a global game now. When you're refereeing on the PDC Asian Tour in Mongolia, and on the World Series [stage] in Australia, you do have to pinch yourself sometimes.

“I'm an old age pensioner now. We have some cracking youngsters [referees] coming through, so for me personally, I think it's the right time.”

Reflecting on some of his most famous games, he added: “The most special moment for me was the 2007 World Championship final between Phil [Taylor] and Barney [Raymond van Barneveld], which is still said to be the greatest final ever.

“I was fortunate enough to call that final and that was absolutely immense. John Part beating Phil in 2003 was another amazing achievement, and another milestone."

PDC Chief Executive Matt Porter added: “Russ' voice is synonymous with our sport, and his contribution to the game throughout the last 30 years has been incredible.

“The World Darts Championship final is the perfect and only environment for him to finish his career as a referee – our flagship match at our flagship tournament.

“Russ is proud of what he does, but he’s also proud of where the sport is, and he’s played a huge part in helping it get to that level.

“The role of PDC ambassador has been created specifically for Russ, because we felt it would be too wasteful to lose his contribution to the sport entirely.”

Russ has played a key role in the expansion of the PDC’s global affiliate tours – including the Asian Tour – over recent years, and believes that the sport's worlwide growth will continue over the coming years.

“I've got a lot of experience and input that I can push forward, and I'm really relishing this new role," added the 66-year-old, who will also be helping to develop the next generation of referees.

“There is still an awful lot out there still to be done, and there’s still an awful lot we can still achieve.

“We're riding the crest of a wave and we're going at the rate of knots, and I don't see the end of that wave splashing down at all.”