New CFL re­view rule de­signed to speed things up

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DAN RALPH TORONTO —

Randy Am­brosie wants play­ers and coaches to de­cide Cana­dian Foot­ball League games on the field, not the re­play booth.

The CFL com­mis­sioner un­veiled a sig­nif­i­cant rule change Wed­nes­day that, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, lim­its coaches to one video re­view chal­lenge per game. Pre­vi­ously, teams could make two chal­lenges per con­test and a third if a coach was suc­cess­ful on his first two.

Am­brosie, hired as CFL com­mis­sioner last month, said while vis­it­ing eight of the league’s nine sta­di­ums — Regina’s Mo­saic Sta­dium is the only one he hasn’t been to yet — fans made it abun­dantly clear they’d be­come frus­trated with the num­ber of chal­lenges coaches were mak­ing in games.

“This (coaches chal­lenges) seemed to be the item they most of­ten wanted to talk about,” Am­brosie said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call. “A Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers fan this past week­end threat­ened to have me re­placed by Gainer the Go­pher (Rid­ers’ mas­cot) as com­mis­sioner if I didn’t fix this prob­lem.

“Clearly, no one wants to be re­placed by Gainer the Go­pher so I sup­pose you’ve got to give the fans a fair bit of credit here. The in­ten­tion here is very clear: We want, as best as pos­si­ble, the games to be de­cided on the field by our play­ers and coaches.”

Coaches must still have a timeout to ini­ti­ate a chal­lenge. If the chal­lenge is un­suc­cess­ful, they’ll still lose a timeout.

A coach that’s suc­cess­ful in his chal­lenge gets to keep the timeout but won’t get a sec­ond chance to re­quest a re­view.

The Cana­dian Foot­ball League com­mand cen­tre will con­tinue to au­to­mat­i­cally re­view scor­ing plays and turnovers.

The move drew the sup­port of Toronto Arg­onauts de­fen­sive back Jer­maine Gabriel. “Thank you,” he tweeted Wed­nes­day.

Hamil­ton Ti­cats head coach Kent Austin has chal­lenged just two calls this sea­son, both un­suc­cess­ful and joked about his ac­cu­racy rate.

“That’s prob­a­bly good — I don’t get many of them right,” Austin said, laugh­ing.

That’s ac­tu­ally not true. Austin threw the chal­lenge flag 16 times last sea­son, the sec­ond-low­est rate among CFL coaches, but his 56 per cent ac­cu­racy rate was the high­est in the league.

“I un­der­stand the rule change and why ... we have to look at the fan ex­pe­ri­ence,” Austin said. “We sup­port it and as you look at the rest of the sea­son, it will play out well.”

Both Am­brosie and Glen John­son, the CFL’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions, said the orig­i­nal in­tent of re­play re­views was to fix ob­vi­ous of­fi­ci­at­ing mis­takes made dur­ing games. But some coaches had re­sorted to us­ing their chal­lenges as a means to draw penal­ties that oc­curred away from the play and wipe out big gains or ex­tend drives.

The abun­dance of chal­lenge flags not only slowed the pace of games but dras­ti­cally dis­rupted the flow of the action.

“At its core, the orig­i­nal in­tent and phi­los­o­phy was you didn’t want a game to be de­cided by a sig­nif­i­cant mis­take made on the field by one of our of­fi­cials ... es­pe­cially the big games,” said Am­brosie, a for­mer CFL player. “The orig­i­nal in­tent I fully sup­port and en­dorse.

“This was a prob­lem that needed solv­ing. Ul­ti­mately I think we found a very el­e­gant so­lu­tion, a mid-course cor­rec­tion that can give us a chance to re­ally fo­cus on let­ting the ta­lent on the field de­cide the out­come of the games.”

John­son said the change was made to en­hance the fan ex­pe­ri­ence, not be­cause game of­fi­cials had be­come frus­trated by the process.

“We’ve come off the prin­ci­ples of why we’re us­ing re­play. It re­ally wasn’t about what the of­fi­cials thought. It was just much more about what it was do­ing to the flow of the game and fan ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Am­brosie said the fu­ture of video re­play in the CFL will be ad­dressed fol­low­ing the 2017 sea­son.

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