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Evolution of CFL rule changes: Impact on gameplay

The Canadian Football League (CFL) promises a football scene that can compete at the international level and be on par with other nations that have made a big name in the football world. Since its inception in 1958, the CFL has thrived, constantly striving to provide the best structure for players and spectators alike.

As part of this commitment, the CFL has undergone a few rule changes to enhance the game. Learn more about these here to help you with your Bitcoin online casino bets.

What is the Canadian Football League (CFL)?

Canadian Football League (CFL) is the pinnacle of Canadian football competition. It is a professional league comprising nine teams that are divided into two divisions: the East Division and West Division. The CFL season spans 21 weeks, followed by a three-week playoffs, ultimately leading to the Grey Cup championship game held in late November.

The early years of CFL rules

The CFL began using the heavy influence of the rugby football system. However, it underwent initial changes when the Governor General, Earl Grey, donated the Grey Cup to the league. This led to the beginning of the Burnside rules.

The Burnside rules follow a gridiron-style format with 12 players on each team. Particularly, six players are positioned on the line of scrimmage when the ball is put into play. Another key element is the ‘snap-back’ system, where the ball is passed backwards from a stationary line of scrimmage by the centre.

Rule changes over the years

The CFL has consistently strived to offer the finest football experience in the country, which has called for a series of rule changes throughout history. These changes have shaped the CFL into what it is today. Take a brief look at the CFL rule changes over the years:

  • 1912 – Canada is in talks of adopting the American football structure, in terms of downs and distance rules. While American football increased their number of downs from 3 to 4, the Canadian Rugby Union kept the Burnside rules and stayed with three downs for 10 yards.
  • 1920 – Any consideration of changing the rules based on the American football rules was eliminated. It was also around this time that the concept of forward pass was put up.
  • 1961 – After the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU) or ‘Big Four’ and Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) were renamed into East and West Conferences, limited intersectional play was put in place.

This allowed all teams from both divisions to play three games against each other within their own conference and one game against teams from the other conference.

  • 1981 – The two conferences agreed to a full merger which allowed for 16 games per season where all nine teams played against each other twice, one home and one away.
  • 1986 – The regular season schedule has been 18 games. Moreover, the rule of ‘rouge’ has also been implemented. This refers to awarding a single point when a kicked ball is not returned out of the end zone.
  • 1996 – CFL structure returned to an all-Canadian format consisting of nine teams.
  • 2018 – The CFL season included a two-game pre-season in mid-June, followed by an 18-game regular season spanning from late June to early November. The playoffs are a three-week, single-elimination tournament with six teams, culminating in the Grey Cup championship.

Latest rule changes

Currently, the CFL has introduced a set of fresh rule changes for the 2023 season. This includes the following:


  • Holding a penalty in the end zone can now result in the opposing team choosing a safety.
  • Making avoidable contact with an official results in a 10-yard penalty for objectionable conduct.
  • Penalties for no yards (infringing the five-yard halo around the returner on punts) will be 15 yards regardless of whether the ball was caught in the air or bounced.
  • Penalties occurring at the end of the first or third quarter will be assigned at the start of the next quarter unless the non-offending team requests immediate enforcement.
  • A new penalty for quarterbacks faking giving themselves up by initiating a slide while carrying the football.

Yard lines

  • Hash marks on the field will be moved closer to centre field, making them nine yards apart instead of 17 yards.
  • Offences will start drives from the 40-yard line after a made field goal or single point, and kickoffs will occur from the 30-yard line.


  • Restrictions on defensive players lining up near the long snapper during field goal and convert attempts.
  • Elimination of the requirement for the returning team to touch the ball on kickoffs for the kicking team to be awarded a rouge.
  • Prohibition of players wearing both No. 0 and No. 00 due to statistical and scouting system issues.
  • Two quarterbacks will be allowed on the field simultaneously, as long as other ratio rules are satisfied.
  • A communications coordinator from the officiating department will be present on each team’s bench to improve game flow and communication with coaches.
  • The Command Centre will have expanded authority to assist on-field officials without a coach’s challenge or officials’ huddle.

The new rule changes in the CFL are expected to introduce a more organised and comprehensive structure that will benefit all the teams. These changes can further level up the intensity of each match and make them more appealing for bettors, particularly those placing bets on Bitcoin casino Canada platforms.

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Priyanka Chaudhary
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