Sandy GriffithsSandy Griffiths was a teacher in his chosen profession and also a Welsh football referee. It was in the latter vocation that he became notable as the first Welshman to referee an International fixture at Wembley, the first from his country to referee an F A Cup Final, and the only Welshman to appear in a World Cup Final.
Benjamin Mervyn (Sandy) Griffiths was born on 17 January 1909 at 4 Lancaster Street, Blaina, Monmouthshire, the son of Llewellyn and Blodwin May Griffiths. The family moved on to Aberbeeg where Griffiths attended both Bryngwyn and Abertillery Grammar Schools. Prior to young Griffiths taking up a teaching post in Devon, the family lived at Newport, Monmouthshire.
Griffiths returned to Newport in 1934 and began refereeing in the local Newport District Leagues. Within 5 seasons he was appointed to the Football League list as a linesman and after the war commenced his rise to the top of his profession.
On 09 April 1949, he took charge of the England versus Scotland clash at Wembley, the English included the legends that were Finney, Matthews, Milburn and Mortensen but it was the Scots who were to triumph by 3 goals to 1.
On 16 November 1949 he was again in the middle as England thrashed Northern Ireland by 9 goals to 2 in a World Cup qualifying fixture also played at Wembley.
Griffiths refereed in 3 World Cup competitions and on 01 July 1950 took charge of the opening fixture, when hosts Brazil defeated Uruguay with a solitary goal. Eight days later he was again in the middle when Spain and Uruguay played out a 2-2 draw.
On 09 May 1951 he was in charge of friendly fixture at Wembley when England defeated Argentina by 2 goals to 1
On 02 May 1953 Griffiths was selected to take charge of what has become known as the Matthews F A Cup Final, where Blackpool came from behind to beat Bolton Wanderers by 4 goals to 3. It was his decision to award Blackpool a free kick with only two minutes remaining on the clock, which enabled Stan Mortensen to grab the winner. Mortensen scored a hat trick in the final and Nat Lofthouse for Bolton scored in every round of the competition.
On 21 October 1953 Griffiths returned to Wembey and it was Alf Ramsey who saved the day for England with a last minute penalty in the 4-4 draw with a Rest of the World side.
Griffiths was involved in 3 fixtures at the 1954 World Cup Finals, the first was on 16 June 1954 as Yugoslavia defeated France with a solitary goal, fourteen days later he again took charge as Hungary defeated Uruguay by 4 goals to 2. He was chosen as a linesman to referee William Ling for the 1954 Final. In the closing minutes of the match Griffiths flagged Ferenc Puskas for offside, just as the Hungarian had put the ball in the net, the match resulted in a 3-2 victory for West Germany.
On 26 September 1956 Griffiths took charge as Manchester United entertained Anderlecht at Maine Road in a European Cup encounter, the Old Trafford ground was without floodlights, Duncan Edwards played as did Tommy Taylor who scored a hat trick, both would be lost along with other members of the 'Busby Babes' in February 1958.
On 11 June 1958 Griffiths took charge of the Yugoslavia versus France fixture at the 58 finals, which the former won by 3 goals to 2. On 24 June he was in charge of the semi-final as Brazil courtesy of a Pele hat trick defeated France by 5 goals to 2.
Griffiths published a book in 1958 called 'The Man in the Middle', it contained 152 pages but had poor reviews from the sporting press for the lack of football content, the book was dedicated to his wife Violet (Green ) and many references were made to her.
Griffiths refereed the Welsh equivalent of the F A Cup Final on six occasions. He was also the first referee to be given dispensation to continue his career at top level when he reached the retirement age of 47, all owing to his extreme fitness.
Sandy Griffiths died at the Royal Gwent Hospital on 21 January 1974, having fallen ill the day after his 65th birthday, he was due for retirement and was assistant headmaster at Durham Road Junior School in Newport at the time of his death, his wife Violet outlived him.
On 24 January 2014 legendary Welsh referee Clive Thomas unveiled a Blue Plaque in honour of Sandy Griffiths at Ty Ebbw Fach, Six Bells, Monmouthshire.