Ahead of the annual FAW Referees Conference this weekend, Iwan Griffith is making waves in the refereeing world following his promotion to UEFA Category 2, and is leading a new generation of match officials in Wales.
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“Iwan thoroughly deserves this recognition as he has worked exceptionally hard over the past few years, both on and off the field,” explained FAW Referees Manager Phil Thomas to FAW.cymru. “Iwan prides himself on attention to detail and ensures he prepares thoroughly for every match. He researches every piece of information available to aid him and his team in his matches. Iwan is articulate, calm, methodical with his decision making, ambitious and forward thinking. He’s a great role model for young referees throughout Wales.”
After taking up the whistle in 2003 at the age of just 14, Griffith hasn’t looked back, and the sacrifices he has had to make along the way are more than worth the rewards that have followed. “A very good friend of mine, Gareth Wyn Jones, who is now a FIFA assistant referee, was refereeing a local game in our home village of Bontnewydd,” Griffith explained to FAW.cymru. “He had nobody to run the line for him. I gave it a go, enjoyed it, and decided that I had no future in playing the game. The only way to still be involved in football on a Saturday afternoon was through refereeing. I took the course, and the rest is history.
“I'm lucky that I have a very supportive family in my wife and parents,” he explained. “I'm away from home a lot with matches, and my training schedule can take me out of the house for a few hours after work, three or four times a week. My social life is more or less non-existent! It's a choice I have had to make, I don't drink alcohol now, and my diet is carefully controlled. But they are the sort sacrifices I have had to make to be able to officiate at this level.”
Griffith was promoted to the FIFA list in 2017, and graduated from the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) programme with a diploma the same year. But while international appointments highlight the opportunities available to those pursuing a career as a match official, one domestic appointment remains the most rewarding achievement that Griffith has experienced to date, as he refereed the 2018 JD Welsh Cup Final between Connah’s Quay Nomads and Aberystwyth Town in Newtown.
“It's the match every young referee aspires to at a young age,” he added. “Not just being part of the match, but the whole occasion. The build up was amazing and we were blessed with amazing weather on the day. On a personal note, the match went well from a refereeing perspective, so I was a very happy man leaving Latham Park on that particular day. I set targets at the beginning of every season which so far I have managed to achieve. My ambition is of course to progress further on the international stage, but for now I'm only focused on next season and doing well domestically in the JD Welsh Premier League and in international games.”
But while Griffith’s focus and determination has been a key factor in his progression, he also acknowledges the support he has received over the years. “The introduction of the development scheme for young referees about a decade ago is why I'm at the level I am today,” he explained. “That also goes for the continued support and guidance of Rodger Gifford, Ray Ellingham and now Phil Thomas in their respective roles as the FAW Referees Manager over the years. They have all played a massive part in my career and they continue to do so today.
“The biggest challenge for me is the sacrifices you have to make to succeed. Now I have found a balance that works for me. I have a young family, a full time job and my refereeing, so I try and balance all of those things to make sure I give all three my full focus and attention. Sometimes there aren't enough hours in the day, but I wouldn't change it for anything. My advice for any young referee would be to surround yourself with experienced, good people. Be willing to listen and learn from others. Believe in your own ability, and don't be afraid to have dreams.”
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