It’s been a less than successful season for the zebras of the CFL. Controversial calls have dogged the officials from the early stages of this season. Over the course of the year every team has at one time or another seemed to express concern about the competency of the folks enforcing the rules and regulations of Canadian football.
Not a week has gone by that at least one CFL GM has been left fuming on the sidelines, confused or down right annoyed with the interpretation of a rule, a missed call or a completely blown call.
Keith Stokes gets blatantly clothes lined deep in the Winnipeg end and nary is a call made. Argo receivers move off the line to early and get a free pass down the field, the Stamps pull off the ultimate in surprise plays and end up penalized instead of rewarded. All in all the year has not been a smooth one for the on field officials.
The latest outrage and the one incident most likely to bring instant replay to the CFL, took place on Friday night in Vancouver. The Stampeders desperate for a win and with the clock winding down executed perfectly an on side, open field kick, an exciting play that saw a receiver steps behind the kicker rush down the field and collect the ball for a touchdown. Only problem is that Jake Ireland’s crew didn’t catch the all important placement of the receiver and instead called a no yards penalty. Adding insult to injury, Ireland then turned the ball over to the lions as well as the win.
An extremely upset Matt Dunigan could be heard screaming at the officials about the botched call but to no avail. A subsequent protest of the game was received by the league office, but turned down. In effect, the league said we screwed up but what’s happened has happened, time to move on.
The CFL has been experimenting with the idea of official review this season, giving the officials the chance to examine the tape on occasions this year as a test.
Judging by the result of Friday’s game, the time to move from test to implementation has come. They won’t make the move for the playoffs, but by the start of training camp in 2005, there’s a very good chance that video may just be the referees best friend.
Despite their best efforts, officiating still remains the one constant weakness of the leagues presentation. The time has come to give them some tools to help make the game better, the results fairer and to ease the frustration level.