Multiple CFL Rule Changes Passed for 2014

A couple of pretty big rule changes have gone through. Now centres will be able to "bob their heads multiple times" and not be called for Illegal Procedure. Another huge change is no longer will the referee hold the start of the 20-second clock until after the defence has substitued. This will be a big advantage for the offences and speed up the games.


Board of Governors Approves All Proposed Rule Changes

TORONTO - Today is an historic day in the world of football as the Canadian Football League announced that its Board of Governors has approved making pass interference subject to video review.

"We are constantly looking for ways to make our great game even better and I believe we have done that today with the approval of this rule change," said CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon. "Being progressive and using technology to compliment the excellent work our officials already do on the field is positive for our teams, players, and ultimately, our fans."

The Board of Governors also approved all other rule changes that were proposed by the Rules Committee. All rule changes will be implemented for the 2014 season and are listed below.

"We are very much looking forward to implementing the rule changes for the 2014 season now that we have received final approval from our Board," said Glen Johnson, CFL Vice President of Officiating. "We went through a very rigorous and inclusive process this off-season and we strongly believe that all of these rule changes will have a positive impact on our game."

Pass Interference Video Review

Coaches are now allowed to challenge both called and potential defensive pass interference fouls under certain conditions.

The new rule now provides a team with the ability to use any and all of its Coaches' Challenges to challenge a called or potential pass interference foul up to the final three minutes of a game. In the final three minutes of a game, and overtime, a team can only challenge such a call or non-call one time, and only if it still has an unused challenge and a timeout remaining.

A coach must challenge to trigger a video review of a pass interference call or a potential pass interference call. They will not be subject to automatic review by the Command Centre.

An unsuccessful challenge of a potential pass interference foul in the final three minutes will result in the loss of a timeout. An unsuccessful challenge of an actual pass interference call in the final minutes will not result in the loss of a timeout.

The CFL is the first football league to subject pass interference to video review.

The role of the Command Centre has also been expanded to automatically review specific turnovers of fumbles lost and interceptions, and can now detect illegal participation fouls during a play (when a player returns to the field after voluntarily leaving it).

Approved rule changes to further protect the health and safety of CFL players:

• Eliminating low blocks below the waist, other than those delivered to the front plane of a player, in all areas of the field except in the area between the tackles and two yards on either side of the line of scrimmage.

• Outlawing peel back blocks, which occur when a play changes direction in the backfield, forcing the defender to modify his pursuit, making him susceptible to blind low blocks executed by an offensive player moving toward his own end zone.

• Clarifying the rules that make it illegal to "deliver a blow" to an opponent's neck or head, and when it is illegal for a player to use their helmet to hit an opponent, standards already followed by officials but not yet codified in the rule book.

• Requiring an injured player to leave the field for three plays regardless of whether a penalty was called on the action leading to the injury (players currently have the option to stay in the game if a penalty was called on the play.)

Other approved changes to promote scoring and improve the flow of the game:

• Allowing quarterbacks for each team to use their own team supplied Wilson footballs, provided they have met the "new ball" quality standard established by the league.

Allowing centres to bob their heads multiple times in an effort to signal timing of the snap of the ball (to be used by visiting teams coping with noise in stadium).

• Allowing offences to further dictate the pace of play by no longer requiring the Head Referee to hold the 20 second clock for the defence to substitute.


Should be interesting video reviews of PI or potential PI. I think the 20 sec rule will be huge in the pace of the game and teams will take some time getting used to this one.

IMO this is even more significant than the PI change. The 20-second clock has in reality been a 35- to 45-second clock because it started so late, with the game clock already running. This will ensure more offensive snaps per game and should take us back to what it was like in the 1980s, when snaps happened no more than 30 seconds of real time after the previous whistle. More plays = more entertainment. I'm thrilled the league finally wised up to this.


Not sure how I feel about the head bob rule. I suppose it does allow teams to actually run some sort of offence in noisy opposing stadiums. Will it completely eliminate the home field advantage? No. But it will reduce it somewhat. (I do wish it had been in place for last years Grey Cup. Maybe the Ticats would have had a chance then.)

It will also have an effect on the offence, allowing less time to: huddle, pick/send in plays and make package substitutions. It may lead to more no-huddle snaps as that would give the QB more time at the line. The QB who can call his own plays well will increase in value.

Conversely, a well organized defence may be able to better “hide” their coverage/blitz/etc.

Might also increase the value on conditioning versus size/strength.

It should be a lot of fun.

I think the PI review is going to put a lot more pressure on the refs. Do I throw the flag and look stupid on the review or not throw it and look stupid on the review. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.

The rule change isn't that the play clock won't be stopped at all, but only that it won't be stopped to allow for changes by the defence if there are no changes by the offence. If the offence wants to send a player in with a play, or switch out the fullback for an extra receiver, the play clock will stop to allow the defence to adjust its players.

That's based on an article on TSN. The CFL article sort of says it, but not explicitly.

I doubt it's going to make any difference to what the refs do on the field. They call what they see and I don't think any true fan would want that to change.

And, given the VAST majority of reviews in the past few seasons have resulted in no change to the call (NFL, NHL and CFL), and TV shots don't often catch the little things that result in PI being called, I can't see it having any effect...beyond making games longer.

Cue the "Arrgh....I hate these four hour games" posts....

That brings up an interest point. What happens if there is no camera angle that shows the receiver / DB for some part of the route? Can it then be said without a doubt that there was no contact? What if the official threw his flag based on something he saw in the second or two that the players are out of frame? What if the reviews sees contact as the players come into frame, but the contact was actually initiated by the other player out of frame? Will they be increasing the number of isolation cameras to ensure full coverage on all receivers? Or are they just going to accept that it might not be possible to be 100% sure in many cases?

I think this makes it even less likely that any PI calls get overturned.

Exactly my point CatsFan.

I understand PI can be a frustrating call for fans when it doesn't go their team's way, but it is easily the most difficult call and official has to make, it's the call most based on an official judging whether or not one player gained an advantage over the other or not (just touching while the ball is in the air is NOT an infraction) and the call that a camera(s) will be least likely to offer evidence to allow an overturn.

This is pure coaches...I predict they're not going to like what they get.

That’s a real shame. IMO the 20-second clock should start as soon as the ball is placed and the yardsticks are ready. There would be way more plays per game – potentially 20 or so – if the league went back to this (which is how it used to be done). Coaches would hate it, but too bad. Put more emphasis on players making plays, and on a speedy game, and less on coaches outsmarting each other with personnel choices.

At one time coaching from the sidelines was a penalty in Canadian football. Until 1950, if a player left the field for any reason, he couldn't re-enter the game until the start of the next quarter. So there was little coaching opportunities during the game.

The CFL article says "the 20-second clock" would start as soon as the offence had substitued. Currently, the 20-second clock doesn't start until the defence has substituted also. I don't think this rule affects the game time clock?

It does seem to be talking exclusively about the play clock, but in the last three minutes of the game, aren’t they stopped and started together?

As for the speed of the game, just watch some of the old games, e.g. the 1967 Grey Cup game on YouTube, and see how fast the players come out of the huddle, and how quickly they get set and snap the ball. I don’t know if teams today could get plays off that fast once, let alone running entire drives that way.

Same as now. To overturn (or apply in the case of "potential" PI review) the video has to show positive confirmation. If it isn't shown conclusively on video it is not supposed to be considered at all. 100% is not possible for the new PI review nor was it possible for the reviews previously in the rules. 100% requires infinite cameras and camera angles, which is not possible in the real-world.

True, except in the past, yes or no was dependent on a point in time for the ball carrier, for which there would always be at least one angle, and usually multiple. For PI, the yes / no decision is based on the receiver's entire route, which may not be available. So even if there is obvious contact, if the review officials don't have access to the entire route and therefore don't know what occurred before the contact, can they definitely say it's interference? I hadn't considered this before.

Can't wait for the first challenge and all the complaints about "How could they not see the contact? It was right there on the replay." This is going to be fun.

No, the rule doesn't directly affect the game clock. But here's the problem -- after many, if not most, plays outside of the three-minute warnings, the game clock keeps running after the whistle ends the previous play. If the 20-second clock isn't started until the ref determines that all substitutions have been made, what happens is that 35-45 seconds of actual game-clock time runs between the end of one play and the start of the next. That's real time that is lost from the game.

I have a lot of old games from the 1980s, and a DVD player with a 30-second advance feature. When I watch those old games, if I use the advance feature as soon as a whistle ends a play, the next play is either already under way or the snap is about to occur. Nowadays, there is almost never a snap as soon as 30 seconds of running time after the previous play.

In stadium, I have watched the time clock on occasion to see how much game time elapses between the end of one play and the snap of the next. It has regularly been 40-45 seconds. So the 20-second clock, which for years has been touted by CFL fans as one of our advantages, is in reality more like a 35- to 45-second clock.

I saw a stat recently that said there are actually more offensive snaps in an average NFL game than an average CFL game. I totally believe that to be true, and it definitely wasn't true 30 years ago. The NE Patriots ran off 91 offensive plays in a game two years ago. The average CFL team has in the range of 45-55, by my informal count. It used to be 55-65 plays per team three decades ago, again by my informal count.

If the 20-second clock starts sooner, there will be more actual plays, which I think everyone except coaches would agree is a good thing.

agreed that play clocks should be whistled in once the ball is placed, regardless of whether substitutions are in position at that particular time.
Incoming/outgoing players will be forced to hustle and use no huddle and audibles more often to prevent time count violations and speed up the pace of the game.

and an additional 20 offensive plays per game will certainly liven the entertainment value with the extra possession changes and increase in potential comebacks and late line dramatics.

BTW, in what year did the play clock/game clock originally become disparate from one another pw?

That's an excellent question. I've been looking for the answer but haven't come across it yet. I'm guessing early 1990s, around the time of expansion, but that's a guess.

Yeah this rule change really will add scoring to the league, particularly with experienced QB and OC. This is a substantive change,

Under the radar is teams providing their own game balls. This will make a difference, Manning was the impetus driver behind this in the NFL about 10 years ago. Visiting teams were finding brand new shiny balls when they were on offense.

Here is a clip of the 1967 Grey Cup game. Despite the Ticat offence breaking huddle quickly, charging to the line and snapping the ball immediately, there's still 25 to 30 seconds between plays. I think they could still run that Ticat offence today with Joe Zuger getting his passes away very quickly. On the TD pass the Ticats had 10 blockers (2 TE, 2 FB, 1 RB) with one receiver who got open. :slight_smile:

[url]1967 Grey Cup - 06 - YouTube

With regards to the NFL having as many plays as the CFL, we should remember CFL plays generally last longer, adding several seconds of action on virtually every play...with the QB's scrambling and more YAC by the receivers. This added excitement in CFL games is especially evident on special teams, with nearly 60% of NFL kicks resulting in the "exciting" touch-back, while almost all CFL kicks are returned, often with extended runs. :thup:

There's a very good reason why the NFL is looking to adopt more of the CFL-style of play, according to a blue-ribbon NFL committee last year. They recommended widening and lengthening the NFL field and adding a 1-yd restraining zone at the line of scrimmage, which lessens the head-on-head contact by linemen.