If you’re like most sports fans, myself included, you can get pretty passionate watching your team. I have been guilty in the past of screaming bloody murder watching a flag against the Lions wipe out a big play. When you’re so wrapped up and invested in the game, sometimes your emotions simply get the best of you.
Wednesday morning, I had the opportunity to sit in on a session with CFL Senior Vice-President of Football, Glen Johnson, who spoke for nearly an hour and a half on the CFL’s past successes and the new measures being put into place to continue to try to cut penalties, increase player safety and speed up the game.
All of these are common complaints of those that watch he CFL, even the league’s most die-hard fans. But the fact is for the last couple of seasons, the CFL has been a pioneer in innovating new tweaks to the game that has the NFL taking notice and even implementing those tweaks into their game in similar fashions.
Johnson explained that the league itself is the biggest critic of the way its games are officiated. 41 officials started last season, 33 remained at the end of it (for various reasons, including termination) and just 21 one of those 33 worked a playoff game.
The CFL’s new partnership with the NFL will be beneficial for both leagues, because as Johnson explained, the only way for officials to get better is to get more live snaps, just like a player. He also isn’t concerned about the NFL hiring away our top officials, saying that can only increase the number of quality people wanting to do the job.
There is a perception by many that the CFL is nothing but penalty filled football. When in reality there are often just as many flags thrown in an NFL game. The difference is that in Canada it is talked about, in the NFL, fans don’t dwell on it as much. Wally Buono likened it to a comparison to hockey in Canada. The NFL is so popular that its warts aren’t going to keep people from attending games. In the CFL, that’s not the case, especially in larger markets, and that’s an issue for a league trying to be a viable option for your sporting dollar.
The bottom line is that the game is officiated by humans, and mistakes are going to be made in a game that is one of the most difficult to call. The CFL is investing huge dollars in new technology that will help these mistakes less frequent and hopefully improve the flow of the game.
When you sit and watch game, keep this in mind; I know that many times I leave the game frustrated by a call that was made, only to get home and see on replay that it was the right call. These guys get it right a lot more than they get it wrong, and as Buono pointed out, the onus lies on the players and the coaches to help the officials get better. In a league that has a ratio, you sometimes have players going up against a superior athlete and that’s when many of the fouls are committed.
After listening to Glen Johnson explain just how hard the league is working, both on and off the field to make the game better, I left the session with a better appreciation of that, and it’s going to make my experience as a fan that much more enjoyable.
So take a breath next time you’re at a game and feel like blowing your stack, your heart and the hard-working people involved at the CFL will thank you.
You’ve probably seen these already, but here is a recap of the new rules and adjustments for 2016:
- The CFL will deploy an eye in the sky video official who will correct calls made on the field, or help the officials come to a quick decision if there are different opinions in the huddle following a flag. This video official will be the first of its kind in North American professional sports. One example would be when both the offence and defence jump into the neutral zone before the snap and the replay official could look at the play and communicate to the referee which team jumped first. Flags could also be picked up based on what the video official sees on a camera that will show all 24 players on the field.
- After allowing CFL coaches to challenge defensive pass interference, the league has deemed offensive pass interference, illegal contact and illegal interference on pass plays as reviewable offences. Johnson maintains that this will not slow down the game, because coaches still have the same number of challenges. If anything it makes the coaching staff’s job more difficult as they will really have to be selective in regards to what they choose to challenge. Buono pointed out that it’s critical for the players as well, as burning a timeout carelessly can really cost you later in the game.
- Penalties reviewable by a coach’s challenge will also include no yards, called illegal blocks on kick plays, roughing the passer or kicker and illegal interference at the point of reception on kickoff attempts.
- Unsuccessful two-point converts will be automatically reviewed by the replay official.
- Made pushing blockers (a push block) through gaps in the offensive line on one-point converts and field-goal tries illegal, resulting in a 15-yard penalty
- The CFL also expanded the definition of a “peel-back” block making it so that no offensive player anywhere on the field can block an opponent below the waist when he is facing his own goal line.
- Players on the offensive line will now be allowed to point while in a 3-point stance, or move slightly to get better set for plays in a way which does not draw the defence offside. Players must become stationary and remain motionless for one second prior to the snap of the ball.
- When a player gives an opponent’s ball to fan following a turnover, it will no longer result in Objectionable Conduct.
- In the last 3 minutes of a game, teams that give up a field goal will no longer be able to scrimmage with the ball, but must receive a kickoff.
- A new injury spotter will watch for players that may need assistance, who may not have been noticed by the trainers or their team mates.
- Off-setting penalties would be created for scenarios, such as when the defence is offside and the offence commits holding on the offside player. That will result in no yardage difference being applied and replay of the down.
- Prior to the session starting Dennis Skulsky presented former BC Lions/CFL beat writer with The Province newspaper, Lowell Ullrich, with a custom-made football and some BC Lions wine for his years of service covering the team. It was a nice gesture for a man whose coverage is sorely missed in a sports section that rarely gives the Lions the time of day. Luckily for Lions and CFL fans, Lowell has resurfaced on 3DownNation.com.