CFL Article: The Rouge Dispute


By Ryan Emmett

It is Grey Cup Sunday. The Ottawa Redblacks face the Calgary Stampeders. It is the last play of the game and the score is tied. Ottawa has the ball on Calgary's 10-yard line. The Redblacks line up to kick a game-winning field goal. The ball is kicked, it veers wide right, but the ball has the distance to sail through the end zone without touching the field. Ottawa wins the Grey Cup by scoring a single point with the help of the controversial Rouge rule. The next day, during the Monday Night Football halftime report, Chris Berman reports on the Grey Cup to American viewers, explicitly on how the game ended. This would be an embarrassment to the CFL and, most importantly, the country.

The CFL has more opportunities for activity than its American counterpart, since Canadian rules are implemented to quicken the pace and maximize the action of the game. The most notable difference between Canadian and American football is the number of downs (three downs in the CFL, versus four in the NFL). The Canadian field of play along with the end zones are longer and wider. The Canadians also have one extra player on the field. Yet, the most important and substantial difference between Canadian and American football is the kicking game, which includes the Rouge rule in Canada. The Rouge rule is necessary due to the length of the field and the location of the goal posts, and is essential to the Canadian game.

Despite the necessity of the Rouge rule, it is contradictory to Canadian football to score a Rouge in the event that a kicked ball goes through the end zone without touching the field. A Rouge is scored when the ball becomes dead in possession of a team in its own end zone after the ball is kicked by an opponent on a kickoff, punt or missed field goal attempt. After a Rouge, the team scored against shall next put the ball into play on the 35-yard line. Controversy stems from the question: why award a single point for a missed field goal? Much like relinquishing a safety, the receiving team is giving up a single point for field position. The contradiction lies herein; if the receiving team does not have a chance to touch the ball, they are not giving up a point by choice. As long as the ball touches the field of play or end zone, the receiving team can run or punt it out of the end zone to avoid conceding a point.

The differences in the kicking game make Canadian and American football significantly different and unique. In 2011, the NFL advanced their kickoff line five yards, resulting in a decline in kickoff returns. NFL returners would rather take a knee in the end zone and just start the drive from their own 25-yard line. As in American football, the Canadian kickoff also occurs on the 35-yard line, but there are significantly more kickoff returns due to the longer playing field. In the American game you can call for a ‘fair catch’ on a punt, which halts the play. In the Canadian game, there is no ‘fair catch’--the kicking team must give five yards to the receiving player, which allows the play to continue. In American football, the punting team can touch the ball and stop the play, whereas in the Canadian game this is a penalty--the only players that can touch the ball are the punter and anybody onside of the punter. In that situation, the play will not stop if these players touch the ball; they can take possession and advance down the field. An American punter can kick the ball directly out of bounds beyond the sidelines, whereas in the Canadian game, it is a penalty for a punter to kick the ball directly out of bounds between the 20-yard lines (it is acceptable beyond the 20-yard lines due to the ‘coffin corner kick’–a work of art in the Canadian game).

Rule Change Proposal

The Rouge rule can be easily modified to make the Canadian game more open. If a kicked ball sails through the end zone without touching the field, the referee should ask the receiving team what they would like to do--give up a point and get possession of the ball on the 35-yard line, or do not give up a point and take the ball deep within their own zone. This rule change would keep the ball in play and maintain the quick pace of the game. When a Canadian player takes a knee in the end zone after a missed field goal or punt, his/her team would not be awarded 35-yards for free, they would have to pay for those yards with a single point score awarded to the opposing team (unlike the American game, where the receiving team is awarded 20-yards for free).

The history of posts suggesting changes to the Rouge rule would suggest you'll get flamed for suggesting this. But for the record I would like the rule changed this way: if a kicked ball has potential to be brought out of the end zone by the receiving team, but is not, award a point. If a ball cannot possibly be brought out of the end zone (because it sails through without landing on the field of play), no point.

While it would be embarrassing (IMO) for a Grey Cup to be won on a missed FG, it would be even more embarrassing for it to be won on a deliberately missed FG (i.e. a kick that is angled to the end zone sideline, as has happened on occasion) or on a punt from close to the end zone.

Let the flames begin.

No flaming here, I agree. If the ball goes out of bounds prior to touching the ground no point. If it hits the ground in bounds then it is a single if the returner is tackled in the end zone or takes a knee. If they want to give more incentive for teams to bring it out move the LoC back to the 25.

Rouge is fine when earned but if you clear the end zone you were close enough you shouldn't have missed the FG.

I'm in to be flammedgroup too. Always thought that if the ball doesn't touch the ground or player after a missedFG or punt (averystrong one),there should be no points awarded.

The Rougeisscored for placing it in the endzone in a kicking motion orif it's doesn't touch the ground at all, it's likemissing the net in hockey.

Well argued post by Mr. Emmet and exactly the position I've taken for years.

Years ago when the league asked fans for suggestions on I submitted something along this lines and clearly they didn't make it then. I doubt you will get many people arguing a change along these lines.

There was a thread on this in the Xs and Os forum a few years back, and this is pretty close to the consensus there. Most people (not all) stated they wanted the rouge to stay, but that it could or should be tweaked somehow. One of the more acceptable proposals was that only playable kicks would result in a rouge. I was in that camp.

I like this proposal even better. A slight variation, modeled on the way kickoffs are handled, might be that after any kick goes through the end zone untouched, the receiving team would be given the option of not giving up the rouge and taking the ball deep (10, perhaps the 20 yard line), or giving up the rouge and taking the ball at the 35. So trading the point for field position, like in the OP proposal.

Suggesting changes to the rouge will not normally get someone flamed. Suggesting it be abolished? Hand me the gas can. 8)

I'll help pour. 8)

I think the new commish is open to suggestions so we'll see what happens if the general consensus among fans is keep it but tweak it as many suggest.

But definitely keep it, absolutely, it is just so Canadian quirky! :wink: The word 'quirky' always needs to be applied somewhat to the CFL and Canadian football because, well, just because. Well maybe because most of us Canadians are a tad quirky. :wink:

I will support a change to the rouge when MLB eliminates walking in a run.
Andbalking in a run

Must say excellent point ro1313, without question. Hmm, maybe baseball challenges Canadian football in the quirkiness factor. :slight_smile:

You would be embarrassed?

The country would be embarrassed?

Agree with the idea of only awarding the rouge on a playable ball. The above mentioned scenario would be a potential PR nightmare 10X the magnitude of having 2 teams with the same name.

Time to tweak the rouge.

Except that doesn't reward failure whereas the rouge does. The pitcher is trying to get the batter out in baseball. A walk or a balk is a failure to do so which penalizes the pitching team and rewards the batting team. It would only be comparable if a walk or balk rewarded the pitching team (which it does not).

In Canadian football, the kicking team is trying to score a field goal, misses, but still gets rewarded with a point. That literally doesn't happen in any sport that I'm aware of. Even if the kicking team misses on purpose, the receiving team has no opportunity to return the ball making the competition (the whole idea behind a sporting activity) completely useless. That would be akin to having a soccer or hockey game where only one of the teams were allowed on the ice or field while the other was forced to sit on the bench or stand on the sidelines.

You do not get a point for missing a field goal....never did, never will

How about hockey when you get a point for losing the game in overtime?

Soccer as well I believe

Not even close

Your defence had the opportunity to stop the offence from getting close failed

that is ridiculous....

As flutie0202 mentioned a few posts back, the rouge does not reward failure. It rewards success in kicking the ball over the goal line and preventing the opponent from bringing it back out. The fact that the team also had the opportunity to score even more points by kicking it more accurately through a target is irrelevant.

As for other sports with similar rules?

  • Aussie rules - Kick the ball between the goal posts, score 6 points. Miss that by a bit (ball goes between the goal post and the behind post), score 1 point.
  • Gaelic football - Punch the ball into the net, score 3 points. Miss by going over the cross bar, score 1 point.
  • Darts - Hit triple 20, score 60. Miss it by a bit, score 20, 15, 5, 3, or 1 depending on where the dart hits.

I suspect there are others.

That said, I wouldn't mind the rule changed as proposed earlier. But then, I don't mind the rule as it is today.

How about rewarding the crappyist team with the best draft pick?

And as I pointed out already

Reward the losing team with a point in the standings if they lose in over time

You don't get a single point for missing a field goal as was suggested in this thread. Kicking teams earn a rouge if they kick the ball into the endzone and the returner is tackled in the endzone, the returner concedes a single point or the ball is kicked through the endzone and is un-returnable.

You aren't rewarding failure by giving a single point if the kick is not returned, but rewarding the offensive team for advancing the ball into scoring position. If the kick can't be returned that is the same as the returner being tackled in the endzone or concedes the single.

That's the way it's always been and I have no problem with it. Just because the offensive team successfully moves the ball close to the opponent's goal line, they shouldn't be penalized with the rouge being taken away because the returner couldn't touch the ball.

I'd suggest the league move the spot of the football after a rouge, back to the 30-yard line, where it was for many decades in Canadian football. They moved the spot to the 35, to essentially help the offences, although they claimed it was because the 35 was closer the average kick return. I'd say today, the average kick returner would be lucky to make it to the 30 yd line...and perhaps where they should spot the ball after a rouge.

How about this rouge compromise:

If a ball is kicked through the back of the endzone without a returner having the chance to touch it, the defensive team who failed to prevent the ball from being kicked through their goal get this choice:

  1. surrender the rouge and scrimmage from the 35 (or 30) yard line.

  2. don't surrender the rouge and scrimmage from the 1-yard line.

That way we wouldn't be rewarding the failure of the defense so much, but we could also avoid a less-second rouge winning a Grey Cup.

On another note, I'd like to see a similar choice given to teams who intercept a ball in their endzone but do not return that ball back out. I don't see why they get free yardage when a team who intercepts on the 1- or 10-yard line do not get that yardage.