CFL Weather Protocol
Given the nature of shifting seasons and the unpredictability of the Canadian climate, the CFL and the Management Council comprised of Club Presidents jointly developed a comprehensive weather protocol to address in-game situations where the safety of players, officials and fans may be affected by inclement weather. The protocol was negotiated into the CFL and CFLPA’s collective bargaining agreement this past spring.
The Game Supervisor, Stadium Security Director or Head Referee may stop the game at any point, but once the game becomes official at the 7:30 mark of the third quarter, only the Game Supervisor and Head Referee may stop the game.
Each outdoor stadium is equipped with an onsite weather station to determine exact measurements and the proximity of weather systems. While the protocol is specific to nearby lightning, similar standards can be applied in cases of extreme heat, excessive downpour, dangerous hail, poor air quality, etc., as advised by the league’s meteorologist.
When lightning strikes:
While active weather situations are monitored throughout gameday, the Game Supervisor and the CFL Command Centre will be notified if any lightning strikes occur within 25km of the stadium. In the event of a lightning strike within 10km, the Game Supervisor will automatically stop the game by contacting the Head Referee, who will then send teams to their dressing rooms, while notifying spectators that the game is under a weather delay.
The game may also be proactively halted if the league meteorologist foresees a weather system moving towards the stadium which would put players, officials and fans in any danger.
Regular season: Calling the game:
If there is a stoppage greater than 60 minutes after the game becomes official at the midway point of the third quarter, the game will be considered final. Two points will be awarded to the leading team, and in the event of a tie when the game is stopped, each team will receive one point.
Before the halfway point of the third quarter, if the total stoppage time is more than three hours, the game will be cancelled, and players will NOT be required to play on the following day.
Based on historical data in which the leading team went on to win 98% of games, it was determined that a team will be awarded a victory and two points, if ahead by:
- 21+ points in the first quarter
- 17+ points in the second quarter
- 13+ points in the third quarter
Short of the point differential:
If the teams DO NOT PLAY each other again, the weather-delayed game will be considered a tie and both teams will be awarded one point.
If the teams DO PLAY each other again, the teams will participate in a two-possession shootout prior to their next meeting, whereby:
- Each team gets two possessions starting at the 55-yard line to commence their shootout drive. For each point scored prior to the weather stoppage, teams gain one-yard towards the opposition’s endzone, which determines the club’s starting point for each drive.
- e. If Team A leads Team B (15-0) in the weather-delayed game, Team A would start both drives at the 40-yard line, while Team B would begin both drives from the 55-yard line.
- The team which trailed the weather-delayed game starts both possessions. If the suspended game was tied, the visiting club starts both. Teams alternate for the four total drives.
- The leading team prior to the delay determines which end the opposition drives towards. If tied, the home team chooses.
- If a touchdown is scored, the team must go for two points.
- The winner of the two-possession shootout is awarded two points for the suspended game, while a tie results in both teams receiving one point.
- Following the shootout, there will be a normal quarter break before the new game commences.
Playoffs and GC?
While weather delays are much more likely to occur during the summer months and the regular season, inclement weather can appear on the Road to the Grey Cup.
If a playoff game or the Grey Cup is halted for more than three hours, it will be postponed and concluded the next day with the game commencing where it left off.
The CFL Weather Protocol is new to 2019 and as a result, fans have questions and comments. This Q and A is intended to help address some of the most common ones.
The bottom line is safety — the health and safety of our players, protection for our fans and the well being everyone involved in putting on a CFL game.
We all love football and prefer to see every game played the full sixty minutes, and overtime if needed.
But safety has to come first — including protecting our players from being more vulnerable to serious, and even career ending, injury.
Q. Where did this protocol come from?
A. It was first developed by the league executive council (team presidents) and then negotiated with the Canadian Football League Players Association, which approved its final version. That version then became part of the collective agreement between the CFL and CFLPA. Once the final version of that collective agreement was completed, signed and ratified, the new weather protocol officially became league policy. It was distributed to all teams and publicly posted online at CFL.ca/weather, a link to which was shared with the media.
Q. But why would the Commissioner cancel the game after an hour?
A. He didn’t. The game was cancelled in accordance with the protocol, which spells out when a game is automatically to be declared final. The game in Montreal – which had been played until late in the third quarter and had endured a weather delay of an hour — met the criteria. The purpose of the protocol is to remove any subjectivity from the decision to declare a game final or to wait longer for dangerous weather to pass.
Q. But why just an hour?
A. Player safety was the single most important factor considered in developing the protocol. It is based on a combination of two important factors: minutes played and minutes delayed.
When a player has participated in almost three quarters of a game, a toll has been taken on his body. When he has also sat in the locker room for an hour because of a weather delay, his muscles can tighten and stiffen up, the start of a recovery process that ideally spans several days. To ask him to return to action too soon, especially when there may be little time for a long warm up, could make an athlete more vulnerable to injury. There is a reason football schedules, compared to other sports, feature relatively few games. Rest and recovery are hugely important to player health.
Q. But I think an hour is too short a time.
A. We appreciate you sharing your opinion with us. We take this kind of feedback into account. All of our policies, and especially ones as new as this one, are reviewed each off season.
Q. Why not wait 90 minutes or two hours?
A. The longer the delay, the more an athlete cools down and his muscles stiffen up, and arguably the more vulnerable he becomes to injury. But this policy is subject to review.
Q. Why not finish the game the next morning?
A. The main concern is player safety. Players can be exceedingly stiff and sore the morning after a game. Asking them to play again them could subject them to a greater physical toll, even for players well known for their resolve and toughness. There are also logistical concerns, such as availability of stadiums, hotels and travel.
Q. But what about playoffs and Grey Cup? Could the same thing that happened in Montreal happen in one of those games?
A. No. Given the importance of those. games, they would be completed the next day. We would prefer to not subject players to the additional physical toll, of course, but no one wants to decide a Grey Cup game before sixty minutes have been played.
Q. Isn’t that inconsistent?
A. It is a tough balancing act, to be sure. We are working to protect player safety while ensuring a playoff or championship game is not shortened because of weather.
Q. But why bring in this protocol now? For years, there have been delays — and we all just waited it out.
A. Weather patterns have changed. And attitudes towards player health and safety have evolved. Football is a tough game and players assume an element of risk but we have a responsibility to work with our players to manage and not increase that risk. At the same time, we have more severe weather, including electrical storms, than in the past.
Q. How big a problem are electrical storms?
A. Last season, they caused four game delays. This year, we have had four delays including the recent game in Montreal, the first to meet the new criteria for calling a game before sixty minutes, in accordance with the new protocol. There was a two hour delay in Saskatchewan on July 1st but that would not have caused the game to be called because the electrical storm hit earlier in the game. (Remember, a game is not automatically called after an hour delay. It is called if it has reached the midway point of the third quarter and the delay has been at least an hour.) Mother Nature is unpredictable but it appears the kind of outcome we had in Montreal should be a rare occurrence.
Q. But we never had this problem before. I remember sitting through rain games to the end of sixty minutes.
A. We will still play through rain but not through electrical storms. They present a significant threat to spectators as well as athletes, especially when you consider how many electronics are now used to produce and broadcast a game.