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CFL X-Factors: Ability To Challenge Penalties And Accountability Of Officiating

Fans of every sports league and at every level of sports have complaints about officiating. The CFL is no exception regarding complaints about officials being a regular discussion across all forms of social media. One way the CFL is different other leagues though is that they have taken steps to improve by allowing coaches to challenge certain penalties.

In addition, there are some penalties and situations that allow the CFL command centre to intervene to review penalty calls. This improves the accountability of officials because if a bad call is made there is a chance to get it reversed and it does not affect the outcome of the game negatively. So can all penalties be reviewed? If not, which penalties can be removed?


In 2019 the CFL made it possible for coaches to have potentially two challenges per game. If they challenge a call and they get a call reversed then the coach has the opportunity to challenge another call later in the game. Before 2019 coaches only had one challenge available to them.

Also, the CFL command centre can only review certain plays, and command centre challenges do not count against the coach’s ability to challenge calls. Those situations are related to roughing the passer and targeting, roughing the kicker, and they can assist on-field officials when the injury spotter has to intervene in a player-safety situation.


In potentially controversial situations it is a solid policy to have these strategies to maintain a high level of officiating quality. It is good to have the support of the on-field officials, and it is even more powerful with coaches having the ability to challenge penalties. Another point of view is that having several challenges in a game slows the game down and throws off the rhythm of the game.

Also, some fans have the opinion that the on-field officials should have the final say for all penalties. But it is not realistic for a league to find ways to remove all outcomes that could be controversial. Part of the enjoyment of football are the calls that sometimes benefit a team, and calls that allow the other team to compete on a level playing field. The ability to have checks and balances for calls by officials allows the CFL to ensure equity for all teams relative to the calls made by CFL officials.

Stay with CFL News Hub for the 2022 season.


Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7

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