CFL rule changes focus on game speed, offence
The Canadian Football League has announced a series of rule changes aimed at speeding up the flow of the game and increasing offensive production.
While none of the truly radical innovations the league discussed over the course of the off-season – such as moving from three downs to four – were ultimately adopted, there are many changes that should help the league achieve its goals.
The most significant of those will see the hash marks where the ball is placed moved closer to the centre of the field, 28 yards from the sidelines instead of 24, making them nine yards apart instead of 17.
The objective of moving the hash marks is to allow offences to use more of the field, as the wide-side throw has often been ignored by teams. It may also improve field goal percentages as kickers will be more aligned with the goal posts.
“Our football leaders told us the current hash marks too often had the effect of taking the 12th man on the field – the receiver on the far side – out of the play,” said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. “A throw to him was consistently seen as too risky. And that, in turn, was diluting the impact of our huge field, which is perhaps the most unique thing about Canadian football.”
In addition, the league has determined that all no-yards penalties on punts will be for 15 yards. Previously a no-yard penalty was reduced to five yards if the ball hit the ground before being possessed by the returner.
“This all started with a large CFL and football fan consumer survey that really gave us some great insights into what our fans and future fans are looking for,” said Ambrosie. “That led to some central themes – good game flow and great players making great plays. The theme of the entire process was fun, fast and the most entertaining game in the world. The rule changes are focussed on meeting those objectives.”
Punting teams will also be penalized for any ball that goes out of bounds before the opponent’s 20-yard line, instead of the 15-yard line.
The league will also implement some new measures to keep the game moving, such as broadening the role of the command centre, imbedding a communications co-ordinator for each team to reduce the time coaches are communicating with officials.
Kickoffs will move from the 35-yard line to the 30-yard line, while the ball will now be placed on the 40-yard line after a successful field goal or single, instead of the 35.
The league is hopeful that no-yards penalties will be reduced by moving to a standard 15-yard penalty for all infractions inside the five-yard zone.
“We do know that our coaches were prepared to take that five-yard penalty and avoid the risk of a big return,” said Ambrosie. “We are hopeful this will reduce the number of no-yard penalties. It creates more reason for discipline to stay out of that five-yard zone.”
Other rule changes implemented for 2022 CFL season:
- Teams will be allowed to have two quarterbacks on the field at one time to allow for creative play calling.
- Penalties that occur at the end of the first or third quarters may be applied to the start of the next quarter.
- Quarterbacks who “fake” giving themselves up will be assessed an objectionable conduct penalty.
- Automatic ejection of any player for two unnecessary roughness or objectionable conduct penalties.