New initiative could finally bring public accountability to CFL officiating

The CFL should be commended for its latest effort to increase transparency and accountability in its decision-making, particularly around officiating. The introduction of a dedicated football operations website and a twitter account to explain in-game decisions from the command centre and educate fans and media on the various issues surrounding the game is, quite frankly, long overdue.

Here’s how it used to work. When a bad/unusual call was made on the field, reporters with Glen Johnson’s phone number (the former vice-president in charge of officiating) would text him looking for an answer. Sometimes you’d get one, sometimes you wouldn’t. Same goes for the inevitable follow up a few days later. Sometimes, the league would inform the impacted team they’d screwed up and the team would leak it to the media. It was chaos and it was no good for anybody, really.

A number of other pro leagues have adopted something similar. The NBA issues a “last two-minute report” detailing the decisions made by officials at the most crucial point of the game. The NFL issues “media officiating videos” that explain key calls from the previous week. Again, accountability and transparency go a long way.

Hopefully, the CFL will both explain calls in the moment and educate media and fans after the fact. They also need to make sure that they acknowledge mistakes when they happen – something that happened less frequently last year after Johnson seemingly grew tired of getting shoved in front of the bus every time.

I have a couple of nitpicky complaints because of course I do. First, I don’t want to see pedantic stuff I can get elsewhere from football ops: a Tweet like this should be coming from CFL communications or any one of the approximately one zillion social media accounts the league seemingly controls.

I want football stuff from football ops, not fluff.

Finally, I question the wisdom of having a member of the team-affiliated media narrate the videos – particularly the ones that will hopefully explain why calls are made. The first set of instructional clips feature a voiceover from Ticats play-by-play man and CFL.ca contributor Marshall Ferguson and while he does a perfectly fine job, the role should be filled by either senior director of officiating Darren Hackwood or vice president of football operations Kevin McDonald (apparently the plan is for Ferguson to do all of them.) The videos in the NFL are narrated by senior vice president of officiating Alberto Riveron.

Again, nothing personal against Ferguson but the optics of having a guy who is so closely affiliated with one team aren’t great. He’s also got officiating opinions of his own and hasn’t been shy about sharing them… (and as the Ticats play-by-play man, he should.)

As always, it will be the execution of this initiative that ultimately determines its value but it’s a great idea and I’m more than happy to give it a chance (and live through the inevitable growing pains.) In my experience, the people involved in officiating want to get it right, try very hard to do so and are far more accurate than they get credit for. Hopefully, these steps will go some way to demonstrating that commitment to the rest of the CFL community as well.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1457 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

14 Comments on New initiative could finally bring public accountability to CFL officiating

  1. hahaha that’s the perfect picture for a title talking about officials screwing up…. Andre

  2. You can’t expect this Hackwood character to explain anything, because he’s got no clue what he’s doing.

    This is why the CFL braintrust needed someone competent to replace Glen Johnson instead of appointing the former intern and “coordinator of operations”.

  3. Instead of trying to spin the screw ups of Al Fatbury & Friends, why not focus on educating the refs so they’re not bumbling around so badly?

    • Huff's Neighbor // June 14, 2018 at 4:20 pm //

      Why don’t you show them how? You seem to be an expert on all things football. Please, save the CFL and step up and run the officiating department. Or NOT.

    • Area. Such small hands and tiny fingers.

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // June 14, 2018 at 8:53 pm //

      You have no clue how difficult it is to officiate football. You should try; call up your local Football Officials Association and sign up. I did for two years and I believe refereeing ten year old games is more difficult than playing the sport. Have some respect for the referees. It is a thankless job they are dedicated to doing well.

  4. Sun grows BS on old manure McMahon // June 14, 2018 at 3:20 pm //

    I’m happy about this and rule changes. Especially how Dave Dickenson and Huffnagle alway has one receiver purposely running into a defender. Completely illegal and always done on second down. Then Dave boy would throw his flag. Just like the vid above. The Stamps had more drives continue illegally last year than the rest of the league combined. This new system will shut down Calgary’s BS penalty calls.

    • BigRedMachine // June 14, 2018 at 5:36 pm //

      Wow. You really buy into Jone’s bullshit. Just because he’s paranoid doesn’t mean the refs really aren’t out to get him…

  5. The revised rule eliminated the review Calgary always got.

  6. I pine for the days of decisions made on the field only. If there was a mistake, so be it. If there was a mistake, sometimes they would offset. Micro-managing and endless reviews saps the momentum out of the game. Sometimes, apparent progress isn’t at all.

    • I agree. However many CFL referee mistakes are outrageously egregious Replay was brought in the season after a terrible ruling on a TD decided the Eastern Final. The officials missed a call by two yards!! A trip to the Grey Cup!!!

  7. Michael Kulyk // June 14, 2018 at 8:07 pm //

    i don’t like slow mo review of a call that occurred in real time – all video reviws should not be slow mo
    .
    also each coach should have 1 review per 1/2 tied to the timeouts per 1/2

  8. Maybe the refs could be motivated with a decent compensation package. Does anyone know hoe they are paid?

  9. Tiger man // June 15, 2018 at 7:33 am //

    It’s NOT the fans that need to be educated, it’s the referees themselves that require an understanding of the rules.

    And, in the past, when a contentious call goes to the video booth, it often comes back from them wrong too.

    Media should not have to explain these video boo boos have the head of officiating should do the telling. When he gets flogged by the press enough times for bad calls, he just might transfer his frustrations onto the stripes who are screwing up….

    This is like changing deck chairs on the Titanic…

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