April 8, 2015

Major rule changes approved by CFL Governors


CFL.ca Staff

TORONTO – Significant changes to the convert, passing rules and the pace of the game will be in place when the new Canadian Football League season kicks off this June.

The league’s Board of Governors approved today most of the changes proposed earlier this Spring by the CFL’s Rules Committee.

“The Board endorsed the view that this is a great time for our league to innovate,” said Michael Copeland, the CFL’s President and Chief Operating Officer.

“We’re looking forward to putting in place changes that have the potential to improve an already great game.”

The CFL is modifying the convert that follows a touchdown to make it less predictable.

A kick for a single point, which took place from the 12-yard line in past seasons, will now be kicked from the 32-yard line.

Last year, 99.4 per cent of kicks for a single point following a touchdown were successful. For field goal attempts from between 31 and 33 yards, 81 per cent were successful.

If a team opts to run or pass the ball into the end zone for a two point convert following a touchdown, the ball will be scrimmaged from the three-yard line, instead of the five-yard line, which may entice more coaches to “go for two”.

Last year, there were only 23 two-point convert attempts, and seven, or 30 per cent, were successful.

But the Governors rejected the Committee’s suggestion that the league test a more radical approach during pre-season games: a convert worth three points if a team chose to run or pass the ball over the goal line from the ten-yard-line.

To open up the passing game, the Governors approved a change designed to create more room for a passing offence.

It will allow a defensive player to contact a receiver that is in front of him within five yards of the line of scrimmage, but it will not allow either player to create or initiate contact that impedes or redirects an opponent beyond five yards.

 The Board agreed that on a punt play, when the ball bounces on the ground and a five yard no yards penalty is called, the penalty will automatically be added to the end of the return, or from the point the ball was first touched by the return team, whichever is better.

In the past, the receiving team had to choose between the five-yard penalty or the yards gained on the return.

It is believed that making the penalty more punitive could reduce the number of no yards penalties.

To increase the tempo of the game, at any time in the game the offence will now be allowed to signal to the Referee that it doesn’t want to substitute and it wants to use a tempo offence.

The officials will then blow the play in immediately upon the ball and yardsticks being set for play.

This new protocol will be combined with a rule change made last year – which meant the offence no longer had to wait for the defense to substitute before initiating a play if the offence had not substituted.

Together, the changes create an opportunity for the offence to dictate the pace of the game.

Also to improve game flow, the CFL is removing the ability of a coach to request a measurement, leaving it to the Referee to measure when he is unsure if a first down has been made or not.

On punts, a rule change will prohibit the five interior linemen on the kicking team from leaving the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.

This should reduce the number of illegal blocking and no yards penalties, while increasing the amount of room the receiving team has to set up a return.

There would be a ten-yard penalty for violating this new rule.

The CFL is maintaining the ability for a coach to challenge Defensive Pass Interference, an innovation introduced last year. But the Board of Governors rejected a proposal that Offensive Pass Interference also be made subject to video review.

It approved no longer giving the receiving team the option of demanding that a team kick again after one of its kick offs goes out of bounds. The receiving team will now either take the ball where it went out of bounds, or at a point 30 yards in advance of where the ball was kicked off, whichever is better.

The Canadian Football League regular season kicks off on Thursday June 25 when the Montreal Alouettes host the Ottawa REDBLACKS. On Friday, June 26, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit the Calgary Stampeders for a rematch of last year’s Grey Cup game. On Saturday, June 27, the Toronto Argonauts host the Edmonton Eskimos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers travel to Saskatchewan to face the Roughriders.

The CFL pre-season kicks off Monday June 8 when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats host the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

The Rules Committee includes several CFL coaches and general managers as well as representatives of the CFL, CFL Players’ Association and CFL Officials.

The CFL Board of Governors includes owners of privately held teams, chairmen of community owned teams, and several team presidents.