New CFL review rule designed to speed things up
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.