Is the System of Officiating Broken?

Case in point: Stamps are charged with roughing the passer when a defender punches the air in celebration. This punch is mis-interpreted by Ireland who from his vantage point believes was a malicious act aimed at the QB. The flag thrown and the penalty immediately called without consultation.

Is it standard practice for judgment calls to be made and upheld by any individual official without discussion or consultation?

Referees have no problem debating the legitimacy of touchdowns, fumbles, ball spots, play in bounds or completions. These are black and white calls for the most part. I can't recall subjective calls being discussed in any way. Am I to believe not one of the on-field officiating crew could correct Ireland on this call? Does there exists the provision for referees to confer and perhaps pick up the flag for these erroneous judgment calls or will we have games decided by these poor calls?

Possible suggestions:

  1. I think that with every critical penalty, (that is, calls that decide the continuity of a drive or standing of a score) each official should have to signal or raise his hand to acknowledge agreement with the flag or conceding that they had no view on the play. Any official who signals otherwise would then be consulted in an attempt to reach a consensus on what ACTUALLY happened. This would apply on judgment calls or not.

  2. Have a TV official in the booth signal down to the referee on a subtle headpiece like those worn in UEFA and Premiership soccer referees. The contention with the use of replay in general has always been the delay in the flow of the game. I for one would not be opposed to having feedback come in from the video booth (even on subjective penalty calls) if the referee was able to be consulted with replay information on the fly, seamlessly, without delay. What I'm saying, is any use of replay should be decided by an official in the booth and not on the field-side box. It would save time especially if the on-field ref was on an ear piece.

Instead of what we had in the Calgary-BC game this situation may have played out:

Jake throws the flag and looks immediately to his crew. All but one of the officials signals acknowledgment in the penalty. Ireland talks to the dissenting official who pleads that the BC defender merely punched the air. After the dissenting indicates he was 100% positive there was no malicious intent, Ireland proceeds to announce that there is no flag on the play. The game continues with a more accurate account of officiating.

If no one on the field caught the mis-call, Ireland checks quickly with the booth over his microphone. Through his ear piece, the booth indicates there may have been a mis-interpretation and quickly looks over it again. The booth reports in a matter of seconds that the punch clearly seems to have been a case of celebration with no aggression shown against Pierce. Again, Ireland picks up the flag.

Lets say Ireland got it right. He looks to his crew who all signal agree or concede the decision to Ireland. He then quickly checks 'booth' perhaps by simply saying 'booth' and they reply 'agree'. The game continues seamlessly.

I know it sounds ideal, but I honestly believe there exists both the technology and on field system to call better football games. This without yet addressing the talent pool and quality of training.

:thup:

I have to agree with you about the replay system that you proposed. Not everyone can see everything all the time. If an official misses a cal then a conference with the other field officials and with the replay booth would be appropriate. It may make the league look more professional as the officials would then become more consistent in their calls. That's what the players want is consistency - if all the officials called holding the same then the players would know what is allowable and what is not. This may help with that because all players and officials would be on the same page. I have played football at the organized level and know it is difficult to play game to game with different officiating crews because each crew had its own interpretation of the rules. Maybe George Black (head of officiating) and the league governors should try this method to raise the level of officiating in our league. When officials blow or miss calls consistently then the league looks bush.

I’d like to mention how great this game ended up being and I don’t want to take away from it with this critique of officiating.

However, I think it’s a valid point generally in the CFL.

I don't think an "eye in the sky" for penalties will fly. That would open up the discussion for penalties to be challengeable by replay and also the spectre of a replay official actually making a penalty call. I don't think the establishment is going to let that happen.

Having said that, I absolutely agree re the refs huddling up if another official sees that a call has been blown. That is what they are supposed to do. The call in question last night was something that would hae been corrected by NFL officials at least 90% of the time simply because officials do intervene and tell the head ref that isn't what they saw, etc.

Oski Wee Wee,

While I agree it wouldn't fly, I think it can be done behind the scenes in a manor where the fans wouldn't even notice that the call had been corrected from the 'eye in the sky'. I'm not for challenging penalties what so ever and I think using the 'eye in the sky' as a backup to a backup would produce more accurate calls. Hence it would be less of something that anyone would even want to challenge.

Challenges as they are, should be decided by a replay official instead of the on-field officials to streamline the challenge system. This would be to use a microphone/ear-piece on the head referee as opposed to sending him over to the microwave/phone-booth to make the call.

Much like the real world where basically each man is there to do his job, on field football officials are not in the business of undermining each others decisions.

They do not operate on a committee principle. Field officials carry individual responsibility for the management of specific locations on the field during play and it is that jurisdiction where they are heavily focussed on every play. While theoretically any field official can signal any penalty, most often during the routine part of plays an officials visibility restricts their flag tossing activity to calls which are within their own ‘field area’ of responsibility.

Amongst other reasons such as rules interpretation and time correction decisions, sometimes official ‘huddles’ take place after a penalty flag is tossed by one official regarding a infraction outside his usual responsible area. This huddle does not mean the officials are bumbling at odds at what to do. It is simply a momentary delay while the official who tossed the flag explains what he saw to the official who is responsible for the part of the field that the infraction ocurred in. I guess you could call it professional courtesy. The head referee then announces the call.

IMO, a committee system such as what you suggest in your paragraph 1 would do nothing more than add unnecessary confusing delays to the already too many flagtossing fests that occur in the CFL. Most penalties are subjective calls and you are not going to develop better crews by encouraging them to step on each others toes when one of them makes a call. Sure we all want the best officiating but you won’t achieve it by pitting refman against refman on the field while the game is in progress.

It’s atonishing though, that with over 100 years of football behind the game the quality of officiating is stuck in the ice age of capability.

I don't know where you assume that quickly checking with officials would pit referee against referee. I completely understand referees have different responsibilities but certain calls are covered and redundantly observed by more than one of the on field crew. This is especially the case with your 'eye in the sky' official in the booth.

I too work in the real world and I know that in all teams there is always room for feedback and support in the decisions we make.

You can set bounds for consulting subjective calls. This would include quick procedures by which to exchange information and make a final, resolute and accurate decision. Professionals should work together to make for the best in the quality of officiating and egos should not enter the equation or these people shouldn't be reffing in the first place.

I am all for what actually happens: officials going up to the official who makes a bad call and saying "I didn't see that!" LOL

Most of the time, the officials quickly convene when one official throws a flag while the guy in charge of the zone of the field involved didn't throw a flag: the most common example being illegal contact and pass interference calls.

It isn't a case of ref vs. ref as much as people being open to be being corrected by their peers. If ANY doubt exists, an official should defer to someone who has had a clearer view of the event. Simple.

In the Calgary case, it should have resulted in that flag being picked up!

Oski Wee Wee,

IMHO
In cases when an infraction is redundantly observed by on field officials you see multiple flags hit the turf. These flags come from all the on-field officials who have felt they clearly witnessed the infraction. Any official who by not tossing a flag has already shown claim that he did not observe an infraction and need not be involved in any polling or discussion with the head referee to see the penalty is carried out.

Unless a rule interpretation enters the equation never will the head referee over rule one of his officials subjective infraction calls, nor should he, nor should he expect one of them to question his subjective calls, on the field. Doing so can easily lead to an acrimonious atmosphere. Raising issue with a peer officials subjective call on the field is not feedback or support as you imply, it is disrespect. The time for this type of correction is in the officials 'training' room, not in front of your 2 most critical audiences, the players and the crowd.

As far as attaching your 'eye in the sky' scheme to penalty calls, I doubt it can be done without gravely disrupting the game flow, without a great expense to the league nor without making a farce of the present officiating system. There are presently 7 on-field officials with eyes on the play. One person in a booth from sometimes 200 feet away cannot possibly, in real time, observe anything near what those 7 are expected to rule on. More than one observer would be required. (Expensive) And usage of video (expensive) would require constant stoppages in time to allow for decisions to be made, options explained, and carried out by the head referee.

Besides that, unlike soccer referees, the head referee in the CFL has much to keep his mind on during the game to keep it flowing efficiently without an added burden of a babble in his ear.

I couldn't imagine watching a game on television, experience a longer than usual pause between plays and see the referee turn his mike on only to say... "The eye in the sky has reported to me that my back judge has apparently blown it by missing a call and I have been instructed to, penalize number 68 on the Tiger Cats 10 yards for holding on that last play, even though my back judge may have concluded the hold he saw a non factor in the play. Thank you for your patience while we worked to get it more right than my back judges opinion."

Better training of officials is what is required, not a bandaid solution which would only further highlight deficiencies.

BTW! Even the usually lowly considered trash collector has every right to an ego.

I agree whole heartedly oski.

OK. Are you suggesting that a flag will be thrown even if the referee saw the infraction in question and disagreed? If a referee saw the play but read no infraction, I would expect him to explain his case to the referee who interpreted that an infraction occurred.

Unless a rule interpretation enters the equation never will the head referee over rule one of his officials subjective infraction calls, nor should he, nor should he expect one of them to question his subjective calls, on the field. Doing so can easily lead to an acrimonious atmosphere. Raising issue with a peer officials subjective call on the field is not feedback or support as you imply, it is disrespect.
I don't see why you can't have a respectful, cordial and brief discussion on the field without respect. Whatever the case, I think me and you will have to agree to disagree on this point.
As far as attaching your 'eye in the sky' scheme to penalty calls, I doubt it can be done without gravely disrupting the game flow, without a great expense to the league nor without making a farce of the present officiating system.
I think it is possible to institute a system where it is blatantly obvious in the time that exists as is for the television official to communicate his opinion to the referee. Any such instances where this is not possible would leave the decision exclusively on the field in favour of maintaining the natural pace of the game.

I admit I don't know if this is entirely feasible so I understand your doubt. I'm just trying to brainstorm.

Besides that, unlike soccer referees, the head referee in the CFL has much to keep his mind on during the game to keep it flowing efficiently without an added burden of a babble in his ear.
Again, a concise time-frame and procedure for relaying this information would be required; one that does not compromise the natural pace of the game.
Better training of officials is what is required, not a bandaid solution which would only further highlight deficiencies.
I agree that training is the first and most important issue to tackle.
BTW! Even the usually lowly considered trash collector has every right to an ego.
Sure but one shouldn't let their ego inhibit respect and communication.

I couldn't agree more, but I really think the league is a much a problem as the individual officials. I think the new roughing the passser rules have got the officials hyper vigilant. I can't recall a year when there have been more obviously phantom penalties , and not just roughing the passer, but face mask, interference etc., etc. I.d like to see a year by year breakdown of penalty yardage, and by individual penalty. For some reason, this year the officials seem to be guessing about infractions, and it's totally ruining the game. Last night was a good example, with a phantom face mask call that lead to a touchdown.

Joe said:
'OK. Are you suggesting that a flag will be thrown even if the referee saw the infraction in question and disagreed? If a referee saw the play but read no infraction, I would expect him to explain his case to the referee who interpreted that an infraction occurred.'

At the risk of repeating myself, but in fear that you didn't understand me, if a referee read no infraction, which would be indicated by the non tossing of his flag, I would expect him to keep his mouth shut. What can he add to the situation by getting involved in a time delaying official 'huddle' process except to say, "I didn't see an infraction so I didn't throw my flag." LOL Nothing! A non call by him doesn't mean an infraction didn't take place, it simply means he didn't see it. You seem to believe that, after every penalty flag, it should be acceptable and a system should be put in place for any official to argue against subjective decisions by other officials. Such a system would breed disrespect of officials by, in the least, other officials and players.

Joe said:
"I don't see why you can't have a respectful, cordial and brief discussion on the field without respect."

The officials do have many of them, but i'd be willing to bet very very few of them involve one official saying to the head referee, 'I saw nothing and that official had no business his subjective call.' Referees get together to discuss rules interpretation and time line before assessing penalties, not the quality of one of their peers infraction calls.

Joe said:
"Sure but one shouldn't let their ego inhibit respect and communication."

IMO, exactly why when one official deems a penalty is warranted during the game another should not disrespect him on the field by attempting to step in and try to have overturned something he did not see himself.

lol! At least we agree the officiating should be improved for the betterment of the game. :slight_smile:

-meeting recessed-

I'll concede the final word... :wink:

-meeting recessed-