CFL rules committee recommends changes to enhance flow of game, fan experience

Rules changes aimed at enhancing flow of game

REGINA — The CFL’s rules committee wants to limit when coaches can challenge plays to enhance the flow of play and overall fan experience.

A recommendation tabled by the committee Wednesday requests coaches no longer be able to challenge a play following a television commercial. It approved, coaches would have to throw their flag within the first 30 seconds of the break rather than be allowed to wait the entire duration before doing so.

The committee also wants to change what coaches can challenge, limiting what can be contested on roughing-the-passer calls when a quarterback is in the act of throwing or slides head-first across the line of scrimmage. It suggests unnecessary roughness penalties against the passer behind the line of scrimmage, such as facemasking or horse collar tackles, as well as actions that occur when the quarterback crosses the line of scrimmage with the ball no longer be challengeable.

In addition, the committee requested the replay official only change a call that was clearly wrong rather than try to officiate plays to ensure they’re right.

“What we’ve done is take three of four things that as a package will make the whole coach’s challenge process better,” said Glen Johnson, the CFL’s senior vice-president of football and chairman of the rules committee. “There will be less of them, they’ll be shorter, they won’t impact the flow of the game.

“When you bundle this all together, it should result in a reduced number of challenges and result in a better flow of the game and better fan experience.”

Johnson said the roughing-the-passer recommendation will further streamline the coaching challenge process.

“They’ll only be able to challenge the specific roughing the passer rule,” he said. “That’s when they’re in that vulnerable position of passing or about to pass, or have just passed.”

Johnson said limiting the replay official to changing just calls that are obviously wrong is in keeping with the original spirit of the replay format.

“We brought this in to fix big mistakes,” he said. “We didn’t bring it in to try and officiate the game to perfection.”

The committee would also like to retain a rule adopted last year that coaches lose a timeout if they get a challenge wrong.

Another recommendation was increasing a replay officials’ duties to correct errors when flags are thrown for:

— a line of scrimmage penalty (offside or procedure)

— an unnecessary roughness penalty following a play and the video official sees other unnecessary roughness infractions

— an illegal contact call on a receiver that should be changed to defensive pass interference because the ball had been thrown

The committee also requested changing all 10-yard illegal low block penalties to 15-yard unnecessary roughness calls. Another recommendation was preventing a kick-return team from putting a player on the field just prior to the snap to hide him so he can receive a lateral pass from the kick returner.

That play would be subject to a 10-yard penalty.

The recommendations must be reviewed by the CFL’s competition committee and ultimately approved by the board of governors to become official.

The Canadian Press