National rule

Ok so help me out a bit with the national rule.. does it mean every single play has to have a certain number of Canadians involved?? If so how do they keep track of that every play, and what's the penalty if there isn't?? I've watched for years and never heard that called.

A total (offence and defence) of 7 Nationals minimum must be starters. It has nothing to do with how many Nationals are involved in every single play.

In effect, at least seven national players must be on the field, split between offence and defence, for all non-special teams plays. The split is set by teams prior to each game. For example, if a team decides to play four nationals on offence and three on defence, that's how they have to play the entire game.

The penalty for violating the rule is 25 yards.

The actual rule is quite simple. A team can have a maximum of 20 international players, excluding the three quarterbacks. Sixteen of those players (the "starters") are unrestricted, and can enter the game at any time on either offence or defence. The other four are the "designated internationals", and can only enter the game, other than on special team plays, if one of the unrestricted internationals comes out for that play. There is an exception to this to handle replacing an injured player - the last part of the rule below.

Article 5 – Designated International If a team is using its full complement of international players, it shall, prior to the game, designate four international players as special teams players, who shall be permitted to enter the game at another position, only on the understanding that another international player on that side of the ball is required to leave the game for that play. Such player may enter the game on an unrestricted basis, only if another international player is removed for the balance of the game.

If a designated international participates in the game illegally:

PENALTY: L25 PLS DR or L25 PBD or option.

As CatsFaninOttawa has laid out, in practice the rule gets enforced by keeping track of what happens when any of those 4 designated players get substituted in.

The only time I've ever seen a team get caught with a violation on this during a game was Saskatchewan either in 2017 or 2016.

Where is seymour when you need him?

There's a different thread for discussing the merits of the rule:
Pros and cons of the import rule

An interesting read, with some very strong opinions on both sides.

There are many Canadians that are capable of playing in the CFL, but don't have jobs because there are only 9 teams.

There is no shortage of good Canadian talent.

For anyone who doesn't like seeing Canadians play - the CFL isn't for you.


I think fans want to see the best players play. They don't care where they come from. But it's always nice to see the odd Canadian succeeding.

Anyone who wants to see the "best players play" shouldn't be watching the CFL at all. Those players are found in the NFL.

Thank you so much for bringing up this topic - which has at least 100 preexisting threads - and bringing the people out who want a CFL that only exists in fantasy.

Directed at everyone:

Getting rid of the ratio will never happen - because if it did football in Canada would be given a death sentence in that day. It would kill Canadian football at the grass roosts level, which in turn would lead to a lack of interest in the pro game.

I would literally stop being a CFL fan if it got rid of the ratio. If I ever wanted to see all American teams I would watch the NFL. Not try to change the CFL, and ruin it forever, simply to suit my short sighted personal preferences.

As someone who fought in war for this nation I'm a little disgusted that there are fellow Canadians that would so easily want to give up on our Canadian players. Disgusting!

He had a valid question - how does the rule work? Asked and answered.

As for those who want to state their opinions on the rule, I suggest that the thread I posted earlier is the place for that. I've sometimes thought it should be a sticky thread, but short of that, I try to do my best to redirect discussions there as required.

Didn't think it would be possible for a thread on the international rule to be derailed by discussion of the international rule.... :wink:

It was fellow Canadians, long ago, from within the league who gave up on Canadian player ability in favour of the road to profitability and audience fulfillment. And, a ratio still in place today is indicitive the mindset within has changed very little. As long as mgmt are satified with the profitability their league setup brings, there need not be any "ratio hiring" change.

If, and when, the paying customer, show with their pocketbook, a desire for a "relaxed" ratio, you might again be reminded that mgmt in war and football have different goals, and neither are related, as you are suggesting. I like our game, and I prefer to see it played live by the best available players. Being played by the best from around the world has certainly improved the calibre of NHL play, hasn't it?

The protectionism the "ratio" represents guarantees that less than the most entertaining Canadian pro football must be accepted. Inferiority complex?

The best players available are in the NFL. Watch it.

I guess I wasn't completely clear to you. I'll clarify.

Games played in the NFL are regulated by American Football Rules. It doesn't matter how good the players are, nor from where they come, if you don't like the game. I don't like to watch the NFL game.

Games played in the CFL are regulated by Canadian Football Rules and it shouldn't matter from where the players come. This game is my preference. When a team consists of available players who are inferior in talent, fans are turned off. T'was quite evident in Hamilton a few years back when attendance at games was dipping below 10,000. Wasn't it? I know I am not alone to want the best available players but fielding them can only be decided by the teams in the league.

Give me players, the best you can find, put the helmets on and play Canadian 3 down football.

Most countries have some sort of ratio even the premier league which is regarded as the best or near the best .

The US leagues because of size and actual sports developed at the pro level never needed protectionism .

I get what people are saying but it the CFL is already stigmatize by a NFL reject league to those who have limited knowledge of the NFL and the NCAA's enormous football factory size of talent pooled every year . That's why you continue to get the will to develop more Pro football leagues every year because the talent pool is deep .
Most have seen in the past like the AFL and USFL as leagues that developed quickly that could win against the established NFL .

As far as Canadian talent there is more than enough and I am surprised how deep it is for such a limited capacity in the CFL . The problem we have now is some Canadian's are not getting a fair chance especially at some skilled positions to perform and develop within a equal time line as their southern brothers.

My two cents and hats off to those who dug up the ratio rules again and translated them when it comes to designated imports . I forget them myself and find it kind of wonky with unnecessary designations .

Just make sure there are so many on the field and allow even the Qb's to be under the same ratio rules and I am good . Keep it simple .

Here's a scenario that if played out would be the CFL's either best friend or worst enemy . XFL uses Canadian Style Rules in 2020.

In the world of what ifs.

A new US pro football league formed a separate 3 down league based on Canadian rules that ran at relatively same time frame with all US players .

It is an intriguing dilemma that would catch the NFL and CFL off guard .

Not going to happen but none the less something I look at as a possibility when I see investors in the XFL etc ... that want football but want to establish there own identity south of the border that differentiates itself from the NFL .

I can see a CFL field maybe with 4 downs and 12 men that might capture a new audience and go to the three downs later as the rules are absorbed and climated with a skeptical and curious audience that want an affordable football experience but does not try to replicate the NFL in it's rules and has an authentic already established league to base it on the CFL .

It works here and it might work there with a US big 4 TV contract and cost control .

Eww... who does that?

Just so it's out there...
US federal law is above sports. Labor laws will not allow a ratio.

Look at the NHL ..never heard 1 American complain about it

There isn't an existing football stadium in the U.S., outside of maybe the LA Coliseum and one or two other multi-purpose facilities, that could accommodate a CFL field -- it's too wide and too long to fit into stadiums down there.