Rule changes include upgrading penalties for hits to the quarterback’s head or neck, awarding another potential challenge for coaches

TORONTO (April 10, 2019) – The Canadian Football League (CFL) announced that the rule changes proposed by its Rules Committee in March – which focused on protecting quarterback safety, increasing penalties for spearing and awarding coaches with a second challenge if their first is successful – have been approved today by its Board of Governors.

“These changes will improve player health and safety and our committee is grateful to the Governors for their unanimous approval,” said Darren Hackwood, the league’s Senior Director of Officiating. “We are looking forward to putting them into effect this season.”

The ratified rule changes for 2019 include:

  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist Referees with called and non-called roughing the passer penalties including instances where an obvious roughing the passer penalty was not called because a referee’s view was blocked.
  • The ability for the Command Centre to upgrade a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty to a 25-yard penalty for a direct blow to the quarterback’s head or neck with the helmet when that player has a clear view to the quarterback, and there are no mitigating circumstances such as a quarterback ducking his head.
  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist on-field officials in calling penalties when the injury spotter has intervened in a player safety situation.
  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist on-field officials with called and non-called roughing the kicker penalties.
  • Removing the stipulation that allows a defender to contact a kicker’s plant leg without penalty if the defender has touched the ball prior to contact.
  • Clarifying the definition of spearing to be when a player uses the top of their helmet as the primary point of contact to deliver a blow to an opponent.
  • Making the use of three or more wedge blockers on kicking plays illegal.
  • Making it illegal for a defensive player to deliver a forcible blow to the long snapper while the snapper’s head is down and they are in a vulnerable position and unable to protect themselves.
  • Whistling a play dead anytime a quarterback carrying the ball gives themselves up by sliding with any part of their body. Previously, a quarterback could only “give themselves up” by sliding feet-first.
  • Coaches will be entitled to a second challenge if their first is successful, giving them a potential maximum of two per game instead of just one.
  • A 10-yard objectionable conduct penalty will be assessed for faking or embellishing contact, otherwise known as diving.
  • Spearing on any player will be upgraded to a 25-yard penalty by the Command Centre when a spear is delivered to the head or neck, the player has a clear view to the opponent and there are no mitigating circumstances such as the player ducking into what would otherwise be legal contact.
  • If a player receives two 25-yard penalties in the same game, they will be disqualified from that game.
  • A kicked or thrown football will remain a live ball instead of becoming a dead ball when it touches a goal-post ribbon.

The rules committee includes representatives from every club, the Canadian Football League Players’ Association, the Canadian Professional Football Officials’ Association and the CFL.

The 2019 CFL Draft takes place on May 2, followed by training camps which are set to open on May 19. The 2019 season begins on June 13 when the Saskatchewan Roughriders face off against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Fans can stay up to date on all the non-stop action at, follow the 2019 season from around the world, and join us at a game. The 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw will be played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Sunday, November 24.

Lucas Barrett

Manager, Communications & Public Affairs, Canadian Football League

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