WINNIPEG – Players aren’t the only people on the field who will be held to a higher standard this season, as the CFL’s new vice-president of officiating says the men in stripes will also be held to account.
“We want to make sure that the officials are as prepared as they can be,” Glen Johnson said Wednesday.
“We’re improving all of our training and development efforts. We’re trying to evaluate them more consistently. We’re going to make officials accountable for their performance.”
He said those who perform the best on the field will work the most, and the evaluation won’t just include the usual crop of retired officials but will also include selected groups of coaches asked to provide feedback.
Johnson spent 24 years as a referee and head referee in the league before being appointed to this new position in December.
The league’s board of governors will be voting May 8 on proposed new rules this season and Johnson is currently touring all CFL cities to meet with teams and discuss those as well as other issues, such as a move to codify infractions more clearly in simple language.
He said officials, players and coaches will know with more certainty what is and what isn’t going to draw a flag.
The proposed rule change that has drawn the most attention so far is a plan to make defensive pass interference subject to challenge and review by video replay but Johnson says there are many more.
“There’s player-safety related ones where we’re eliminating some illegal low blocks. I think that’s going to have a really positive impact on the game. Keeping players safe and healthy and having them play more is a good thing.”
Others are designed to improve game flow, such as not stopping to allow defensive substitutions if there are no offensive substitutions.
“I think you’re going to see a higher tempo,” says Johnson.
“You’re going to see more offensive output and more plays in a game, which I think just continues to add to our exciting game.”
Many quarterbacks in the league also may be happy with a proposal to allow them to use their own team’s balls.
“Were going to allow quarterbacks to condition and use their own footballs. . . They’ll be league-supplied footballs that they can condition, practice with during the week then they can bring them to the game and, as long as they meet a new ball standard, that quarterback can use his own balls during the game.”
As an example, he said some like to remove the new-ball finish while others may like to use a tack cloth on their ball. They must still be inspected by the referee to ensure they haven’t been doctored beyond league standards, but both teams will have their balls stamped so they remain separate during the game.
The host team will supply balls for kicks that both teams will use.
There will also be stricter curbs on taunting and objectionable conduct, including the verbal abuse of officials.
Besides making pass interference subject to coaches challenge and review, there will be automatic reviews of all turnovers.
The league’s board of governors must vote on all the proposed changes but Johnson says, historically, they have usually given their approval. But the one that did not get approved unanimously by the rules committee was the change regarding pass interference.
Johnson says it’s one of the hardest calls for an official to make, given that they’re often far away from the spot where the play is being made and their view is sometimes blocked.
© The Canadian Press, 2014