May 24, 2018

O’Leary: CFL tackles key illegal contact issue with new rule changes

Dave Chidley/

Following cues from coaches and GMs on its rule committee and fans across the country, the Canadian Football League will adjust a key issue with challenges for the 2018 season.

Coaches will not be allowed to to challenge on illegal contact calls this season.

“I think it’s something that (CFL commissioner) Randy (Ambrosie has) heard from fans in his town halls, is that they’d like to see us make a change there,” said Darren Hackwood, the CFL’s senior director of officiating.

Initially, the rules committee debated limiting certain types of illegal contact challenges, like making the illegal contact that occurs on the backside of a play not challengeable. That led to discussion of eliminating challenging illegal contact calls, period.


Illegal contact challenges were low in total In 2017, with coaches only throwing their flag 25 times across the league.

Player safety was the leading motivation in an adjustment to the rule on blindside blocking.

Low blocks will be flagged this year, with the exception of players that start in the close line area.

Hackwood said this change is the continued evolution of a rule that originated with one club’s suggestion a few years ago.

“I’ve been around for 10 years now and I feel like we talk about low blocks almost every year. We keep reducing areas where they’re legal,” he said.

“This year we’re taking the next step by removing a removing a big group of them. It’s something that’s been gaining momentum over the last five or six years.”

The rules committee began its meetings on Tuesday night in Winnipeg, continued deliberations through Wednesday and voted on Thursday morning, before revealing this year’s rule changes as a part of Mark’s CFL Week.