CFL Officiating

A good read about the process of evaluating CFL referees.

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EDMONTON - Fans of sports which use officials, referees or umpires to ensure fair play have one thing in common — you feel the referee has wronged your team.

At some point in your career as a fan, you’ve yelled at an official, screamed at your television, “brutal call,? or stood around the water cooler lamenting at how an official cost your team the game.

Usually, fans see the officials through biased eyes. You won’t complain about a call if it goes in your favour. It is human nature, and I doubt it will ever change, but what has changed is the how officials in sports are evaluated.

If a player or coach makes a bad play, the media can ask them about it after the game and the fans get a sense of closure. The player or coach explains why they made that choice, and regardless of whether we agree with it, at least you heard or read their point of view.

However, referees don’t talk to the media, which leads many to feel that there is no accountability for their actions.

That isn’t the case.

This past Friday night, I watched the Edmonton Eskimos-Hamilton Tiger Cats Canadian Football League game from Bud Steen’s bunker.

Steen was a CFL official for 30 years and is now the referee game-day supervisor. Steen, along with cut-off switch operator Shawn Lawrence, review every down. They record every play, and any play that results in a major infraction, or missed infraction, is instantly burnt to a separate CD.

Throughout the game, Steen wears a headset and is in constant communication with the CFL command centre in Toronto. They track which official threw which flag, make notes about the call, and re-watch the play.

After the game, Steen takes the game CD and sits down with the seven-man officiating crew in their hotel room to review the game. He asks them what they saw on specific plays, and allows them to explain their positioning on the field and reason for making the call, all the while taking more notes.

On Monday, Steen, along with Tom Higgins, the CFL’s director of officiating, and other CFL football operations staff meet to review all games and evaluate the officials.

A CFL officiating crew is comprised of seven men: a referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge, side judge, field judge and back judge. At the start of the season, the league has six crews. By Week 9, they go down to five crews. They cut down to four crews for the first weekend of playoffs, two for the semifinals and the best seven officials get to work the Grey Cup.

Even though you don’t hear from officials, or read their comments after games, rest assured they are being evaluated, scrutinized and critiqued just as often as players and coaches. Those who perform well during the season get rewarded with playoff jobs and extra money, while those who struggle or are still honing their skills get relocated to work Canadian Interuniversity Sports games or miss out on playoff bonuses.[/b]

I disagree, what makes me mad as a Fan is the unbalance in the Rule Book to call one team for a penalty but on the very same penalty infraction not the other team? A call is call and a Rule is a Rule, you have to enforce the penalty as it states in the rule book it shouldn't be left up to the discretion of the Referee to decide what gets called and what doesn't!

Make The CFL A LEVEL PLAYING field for all teams and that goes for Tom Higgins at the Top of CFL officiating who is one of the Worst CFL heads of Officiating we have had in years because he always backs up his officials and never looks into matters that effect teams involved in bad calls. Do something useful Higgins go back to coaching!!

THE CFL needs to change it's ways with officiating or you will see more fans turned off by the game and the many lop sided calls, this league deserves better officiating!!!

I think they do a very good job myself. Now those who go to the games get to see the entire field while I am limited to what TSN shows me so my post is with a grain of salt, but most of the time they get it correct when faced with a challenge.

How they tell that Glenn didn't cross the goal line with that mass of humanity piled on top of him is amazing.

Most of you Cat fans have probably seen me at IWS over the past 25 years since I moved back to Hamilton. I'm the old grey-beard who is constantly screaming the loudest at the refs about them ripping off my Tabbies. My problem is that with 60-year-old eyesight, a few too many pops, and sitting hundreds of feet away from the play, I don't know how I can call it better than the officials.
Thanks for posting that article, Grover. If that writer is completely unbiased, it shows that the CFL is constantly trying to improve a perceived weakness; perceived by the fans of all 8 teams and by nearly all of the TSN commentators. These days, it is really tough to get every call right for a ref standing on the field. We can watch every controversial play replayed frame-by-frame on our 60-inch HD TVs. We can see whether the receiver got his hands under the ball. We can see if the ball crossed the goal line. Today's technology has made it easy.
Furthermore, CFL officiating has raised its standards in light of the fact that we're all watching for mistakes. Back in the 60s, a receiver could trap a low pass and as long as he could smother the ball until the whistle blew, that was a good catch by the standards of the day. Nobody said "the ball has to break the plane of the goal line" back in the day. The standard was that the ball carrier's whole body had to be over the line. And at home, we were all all watching the grainy black-and-white CTV broadcasts with Johnny Esaw's down-and-distance, Canadian patriotism without an ounce of negative editorialism.

Bigcat: you sure like to complain. How about you give it a try and see how you do. :smiley:

They make mistakes but given the size of the field, the speed of the game, they do a good job. These are not high paying jobs where they are full-time employees. We are not the NFL with millions of dollars to spend. Give the referees a bit of a break.

Refs,Umps and officials all serve a purpose.....without them in any sport....we the fan would have nothing to scream about.They are sacrifcial scapegoats,that have a damned if you do,damned if you don't job to do.There is bad calls in every sport,not just the C.F.L. But how many times they get a call right doesn't matter really to us the fans,as all we care about are the ones that they seem to get wrong.It's a job where you good get 95% calls right,but all anybody remembers are the 5% you got wrong.I personnally wouldn't want their job for nothing,thankless and unappreciated at all levels,all sports,all leagues,pro or amateur doesn't matter.They are human after all,and like all humans are prone to mistakes,nobody is perfect in this world.The next time you watch a for how many calls they get right as opposed to calls they get might suprise yourself with the results.

Compared to any sport, football has the most rules and regulations. So much can be called on every play, you have a ref just staring at the line looking at holding, face masking, horse collaring, another ref making sure the QB is not harmed and trying to decide what a late hit is. Holding seems to be a judgement call and they need to ease up, let them battle it out, hooking arms should not be holding.
Then you have another ref trying to decide if a defender interferred with a receiver or a receiver pushed off or lead with his helmet or faceguarded, let the defender put his hands up as the ball arrives, its up to the receiver to try to catch the ball in traffic. Then we have a player lined up in the wrong position or another player crossed the line a split second before the ball was snapped! goes on and on. Then we have the calls on punts and I’m sure that 90 per cent of kicks are penalized.
Far too many penalties and it gets worse every year because they are always bringing in more protection rules.
Sometimes I wonder if they should just ease up and allow pulling and grabbing on receivers, as long as a defender does not tackle a receiver everything is fair game. Stop the no yards on punts bring in a type of fair catch rule.
Why don’t they blow the whistle straight away instead of throwing a flag and waiting until the play is over?? How many times have we seen a long run back on a punt called back after an exciting run and the crowd on their feet. Blow the whistle straight away so we don’t have to go through waiting to see what the penalty was for.

The refs have a tough job and it gets worse every year
The game has far too many penalties and its becoming boring.

So I think the refs are doing a good job considering they probably could call a penalty on every play. The more rules they bring in the more penalties are going to be called.

Stop the no yards on punts bring in a type of fair catch rule. Why don't they blow the whistle straight away instead of throwing a flag and waiting until the play is over?? How many times have we seen a long run back on a punt called back after an exciting run and the crowd on their feet. Blow the whistle straight away so we don't have to go through waiting to see what the penalty was for.
Yeah... not so sure on the fair catch. I like the rules as they are and I believe a majority of CFL fans would not like the fair catch.

As for the letting the play continue after a flag, if it is a declinable penalty I think the refs let the play go as a turnover could occur on the play and the recovering team can decline and keep the ball. I would prefer the turnover to an early stoppage of play every time.

[b]mikem wrote: Sometimes I wonder if they should just ease up and allow pulling and grabbing on receivers, as long as a defender does not tackle a receiver everything is fair game. Stop the no yards on punts bring in a type of fair catch rule.[/b]
I will have to disagree with these suggestions.

Allowing pulling and grabbing on receivers will cause anarchy on the field and an inordinate amount of incompletions.
and implementing a fair catch rule will negate one of the most exciting facets of the Canadian game.

I say leave these rules as is.

A punt will never be called back for no-yards because no-yards in on the kicking team.

I dont believe in stopping the play bacause of a penality.

Look at the Botched return by Montreal against Calgary a few weeks back.

Had their been a penality for holding or clipping the play would have stopped and the forced fumble would never have occured....Throw the flag let the play continue and allow the team to accept or deciline...In the Mtl Cal game...Cal would have declined a holding or or clipping call

Had it been no yards...Mtl would have accepted but taken the ball way back at their own 25 yard line instead of calgary taking the ball at Cal 20

And with no yards....nothing would have happened at all

Lennywasout, you must be out to lunch period! Unlike many fans who sit at home and watch CFL games on TV I spend money to attend football games and support my Tiger-Cats, I give tickets away to youth and underprivileged kids so they could attend games and support the community. Yes I complain but I have a right to complain if the people that are doing the job are playing by the rule book or playing fair to begin with. Yes it's easy to sit back and make a call from the stands or at home if your not on the field agreed but if you actually read my posts which you didn't you would see that my complaint is not with the call but making a level playing field for all teams, my beef is, if you call one or two plays against a team, call the same against the other team as it states in the rule book and it's pretty darn obvious when the Ref is standing right there on the play, I can see it if the ref missed a call because he wasn't in the play? And by the way Lenny, I was a ref and a damn good one and I made the game fair for all who played not like this BS you support today!!!


Lennywasout - 0

and I bet every cfl ref feels the same.

I would also bet there were some who felt different about your reffing.

Ref in the cfl and then maybe your criticism will carry some real weight.

Exactly :rockin:

And by the way....I've had seasons tickets for over 35 yrs. Seen it all. Have screamed at refs and 90% of the calls if you actually review them are correct.

I think you should referee in front of 20,000 people and a TV audience. See how righteous and cocky you are then.

IMO......your just wrong :smiley:

Hey look you guys, the post is showing what is going on behind the scenes to try and correct the officiating
The calls, the positioning, etc. and questioning the refs while watching the tapes in their Hotel room and asking their input in how to improve themselves.
I would venture to guess that very few if any fans knew that this system for critiquing the refs even existed and I applaud the league for using it to improve the officiating.

Fair Catch - NEVER!

Really, I don't think you are grasping how penalties are called, applied and declined/accepted in the various scenarios. NO PLAY is EVER stopped on a penalty except BEFORE the ball is snapped.

You have to realise that mikem onlky wants the CFL to become the NFL North. From iliminating the import ratio, reducing the field size, the number of players, 4 downs, eliminating the rogue, etc...

Oh no not the rogue. :cry:

the only good rogue is a dead rogue.

the rouge however is another creature

My bad.